Spend a few years in Florida and you’ll eventually spend New Year’s Day with someone creating a traditional meal of Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens.

The story goes that Union soldiers plundered every source of food as they swept through the Confederacy.  They stripped the fields and storehouses; they took every chicken, cow, and hog.  The only thing the Northern Aggressors left behind were Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens — something they had never developed a taste for above the Mason-Dixon.

So many Southerners survived on this fare that it was ultimately considered a “good luck” dish.   The Peas brought the luck; the Greens meant coming prosperity.

Every New Year’s Day, hundreds of thousands of Floridians cook up a big batch of Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens, along with fresh, homemade cornbread.

The characters and settings of the South are influenced by many things, both new and old.  The past is as important and the present — and future.  The traditional recipe is a thread to distant families and distant times.

Best wishes to you and your writing in 2012.  And pass the peas and greens.