Well, Black My Eyes!

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This post might not make sense to you if you’re not from the South, but I had a near calamity today.  I had a taste for black eye peas, so I got my trusty cast iron pot out and started washing peas.  Bud made a pass through and nearly swooned with happiness when he saw how lovely I looked washing peas next to the garlic, celery, and onion waiting on the chopping block.  There would be unhappiness in our home this evening if no peas and ham were forthcoming.  After seasoning and starting the peas, I went to the freezer to find the meaty ham bone I’d squirreled back a couple of weeks ago. Ham bones are a gift of nature.  I even knew a family who nicknamed their son Ham Bone.   I think to a Southern Cook, the ham bone is more important than the ham itself, a delicacy to be hidden from nosey freezer plunderers at all costs.  In fact, I have been known to threaten bodily harm when a home-wrecking guest asked Bud, not me for the ham boneafter a meal.  I put a stop to that hussy then and there!

At any rate, the precious ham bone must be retrieved at the perfect point of denuding.  Too much meat on the bone is wasteful.  Too little just leaves the pea soup a bit anemic. I knew I had the most darling ham bone hidden away in the freezer awaiting its rendezvous with my peas.  I reached in the freezer for my ham bone  and found………..nothing!  Well, actually I found ground beef and pork, chicken parts of various types, several kinds of sausage, vegetables and fruit a plenty, but no ham bone. I panicked.  Earlier in the week, I’d asked Bud to get the frozen meat trimmings and scraps to the trash.  God forbid?  Had he mistaken my foil-wrapped ham bone  for scraps. Worse yet, had he sneaked it out to another woman? I was almost too shattered to look, but finally found my ham bone shoved to the back of the bottom shelf behind a bag of ice.  Never has a ham bone been so welcome.  The peas breathed a sigh of relief when I dropped the bone in.

Our marriage was saved.

2 1/2 cups black eyed peas
8 cups water
1/2 tablespoon salt or more to taste
1/4 tablespoon black pepper
1 medium onion (whole)

1/4 c diced celery if desired
Nice ham bone 

1/4 teaspoon vinegar (or pepper sauce)

Simmer all ingredients in large cooking pot on stove top burner on medium heat. Use cast-iron pot if you have one.

Cook 40-60 minutes or until peas are tender. Do not allow water to evaporate entirely. If peas are dry they will burn quickly.

Serve with hot cornbread.  It is against the law to throw the pea soup out.  Have it for lunch tomorrow is ver cornbread.

Home is Where the Heart Is

image                                      Uncle Russ’s camper wasn’t this nice!

Bud’s Uncle Russ was ahead of his time, since he came up with the first camper/Tiny House anyone had seen in our part of the country.  Back in the late1950’s and 1960’s, the family occasionally awoke to find his old Ford truck with its homemade camper parked in their yard.  Enclosed within its two by four frame and galvanized sheet metal covering were a bunk and a bit of storage for his camp stove, personal belongings, and other gear, though his hygiene products didn’t take up a lot of room.

Uncle Russ was not encumbered with a regular job.  He travelled till he ran out of money, then stopped off and found a little job like mowing, helping with a harvest, or pumping gas to get enough ahead to make be on down the road a bit.  He never went naked or hungry, and always had a roof over his head.

When the Bethea boys, Dell and Louis were growing up on a farm in Warren, Arkansas, their Uncle Russell would show up from time to time.  He’d hang around and work with his brother Joseph till they got crosswise and he’d get mad and leave or Joseph would run him off.  Apparently, his grooming was lacking even then, since the boys, “I don’t know how you boys can stand to wash your face and comb your hair before every meal.  I don’t comb my hair but about every six months and it nearly kills me then.”

Early one Saturday morning, Miss Mary noticed his truck in the drive and called out to let Dell, Bud’s Dad know his uncle had come to call.  Uncle Russ knocked when he saw them up and about.  Miss Mary let him in and went to put the kettle on for coffee. Without a doubt, Uncle Russ had just acquired some instant coffee he was curious about, since he asked Miss Mary if she minded if he made his own.  “Not at all.  The water will be hot in just a minute.”

He stirred in four or five heaping teaspoons of granules.  Knowing he had concocted a powerful potion, she and Dell watched with interest as he tried to choke it down.  He made two or three attempts before remarking, “I made that a little stout.  I’m gonna had to pour it and have a little of yours.”

When Bud was about seventeen.  Uncle Russ made a trip down, asking Bud to sign a signature card to be put on a joint checking account, though Bud assured him he wouldn’t have anything to deposit.  “That’s okay.  You just sign this here card and feel free to write a check anytime you need to.”

Bud signed the card and never gave it another thought, knowing how odd Uncle Russ was.  Several months later, he got a letter from Uncle Russ, telling him how disappointed in him he was.  In fact, he was going to take him out of his will. Bud never saw Uncle Russ again.   Uncle Russ retired, an interesting move for a man who never worked more than a day or two at a time.  He sold his old truck and its fixtures, somehow acquired an old mobile home, and moved it to the family farm.  He died a few months later.  Bud never heard who beat him out of his inheritance.