by Gene Howington
Thanksgiving is (no matter what one thinks of the origins of the holiday) a time to do something many often neglect in their daily lives: reflect and be grateful for the good things in their lives. A mindfulness of what does more than bring simply pleasure in to our lives, but true happiness. It’s also time to chow down with family and friends. So in that spirit, I’m going to offer some things I’m personally thankful for this year and a recipe. I invite you all to do the same in the comments section.
One of the things I’m thankful for is all of my friends here at this blog, authors and readers alike, who have made FFS a satisfying and growing enterprise. Coming up on our first anniversary, our numbers are trending well beyond initial expectations. Although I personally haven’t had as much time as I’d like to write this year, the other authors here have all done an admirable job in keeping content fresh and timely and for that, I’m not only thankful, but amazed. This blog is truly a labor of love. It is good to know that the notions of freedom, justice and equity still have an audience; that people still have a concern for those matters beyond the political polemic of intractable partisan politics and the sway of big money. That happiness in my life springs directly from our fine contributors and excellent audience.
I’m thankful for feeling better. As the authors (and a few readers) know, I had a health scare last summer and a surgery to fix it. I feel better than I have in fifteen years. I’m not one to throw about the word “miracle” but the difference in how I feel now compared to before is hard to describe without thinking along that line. The old truism “you don’t truly appreciate your health until it is gone” is doubly true when you get it back.
I’m also thankful for my family and their support through what has proven in some ways a challenging year personally. They have all rallied and provided support in sometimes unexpected ways. I’m especially thankful for one cousin’s healthy new baby and another cousin we recently found out has a baby on the way. It would be easy for me to be bitter about family since – quite honestly – one side of my family isn’t worth a damn and are only family in the genetic sense, but the good nature, good character, good intent and good actions of the other side of the family make that irrelevant as they exemplify what family is and should be about. Not to mention the good senses of humor and good cooks and a fair share of good musicians.
Speaking of which, here’s a recipe we enjoy in our home. It’s great at Thanksgiving, but we like it year round. I hope you like it.
Black-eyed Pea Salad
3/4 pound dried black-eyed peas*
1 med. yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 pound of bacon, chopped
2 tbs. olive oil
1 cup diced ham (any kind will do, but I suggest tasso)
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
2 bunches green onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley (flat or curly, your preference), chopped
1 tsp. dry mustard (suggest Coleman’s)
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tbs. lemon juice
1 tbs. white wine vinegar**
Put peas in a 4 quart pot with twice the volume of cold water. Add onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender (30-35) minutes. Test frequently towards end of cooking, you don’t want the peas over cooked. When done but firm, drain and spread out on a sheet pan to cool.
In a 12 inch skillet, fry bacon until almost crisp. Drain the fat, remove the bacon (a metal strainer works great for this). Set aside.
Add 2 tbs. of olive oil to the pan. Add ham, celery and red bell pepper. Saute for ~ 3 minutes. Allow to cool. Put in large bowl with cooled peas, bacon, green onions and parsley.
In a smaller bowl, make the dressing. Whisk the dry mustard with half (1 tbs.) of the olive oil until lump free. Add remaining oil and ingredients. Mix until emulsified. Fold dressing into the salad. Refrigerate 4-6 hours before serving, folding the salad a couple times while chilling.
* You can make this with canned peas, but I do not recommend it. Texture is important in this salad and overcooked peas (which canned often are) ruin the dish.
** If you like vinegars, you might want to experiment with different types in the dressing. A variation on this salad I’ve made before substitutes red wine vinegar, substitutes 1/2 cup of diced red onion in place of the green onions and adds 1/2 cup of diced or crumbled feta cheese to the salad for a more Mediterranean spin on the dish.
Note on dicing/chopping: This sounds like an installment of the old Phil Hartman “Anal Retentive Chef” skits, but when making a salad of this sort, I find that chop size matters. Try to get your dice to where the vegetables and ham are all about the same size as the peas. It sounds a little squirrely, but it makes for a better texture in the finished product.
From all of us at Flowers For Socrates, may you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!