I have a confession: I’m a closeted Southern food fanatic. And not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed. Quite the opposite! I say I’m closeted because, despite my in-depth search, I continue to find it difficult to access Southern food. Think about it, how many Italian restaurants are available within a 10 mile radius from your home? Or what about Thai food, or Mexican, or a classic French restaurant? I bet most of you could name 5 restaurants in your town and not one would be Southern. And I bet you don’t come across many Southern inspired recipes like my Old Bay Black Eyed Peas, Peach Chow Chow, and Collards recipe often. That needs to change. There needs to be more Southern food!
Here’s a question for ya: how many of you think Southern food is basically fried chicken and biscuits? I dont blame you for thinking so! I used to as well!! But Southern food is SOOOOOO much more than that. What I love about Southern food (other than the delicious flavors) is the immensely rich history is originates from. Southern food is rooted in hundreds of years of storytelling. It comes from African, European, Appalachian, and Native American traditions (to name a small few). It’s one of the most powerful storytellers of our nations past. Each recipe is built from family history, American history, and cultures that helped shape the way Americans utilize agriculture.
A major component of Southern cuisine revolves around fresh fruits and vegetables, typically grown from heirloom seeds passed down from generations before. A 300 year old bean might be a key component on your modest looking plate of hoppin john. Southern cuisine may seem simple compared to most culinary techniques, but it’s history is far more complex than anything you could put on a plate.
This Old Bay Black Eyed Peas, Peach Chow Chow, and Collards recipe is not too innovative. Because Southern food is so rich with tradition, I wanted to keep this recipe pretty close to the original. I did take a few creative liberties where I could- I added a Southern favorite, Old Bay Seasoning, to black eyed peas. The celery salt in the seasoning played perfectly with the celery seed in the peach chow chow (my quick take on a Southern pickled condiment). The biggest change to my recipe is that it’s 100% vegetarian. While collards and black eyed peas are typically made with some kind of smoked pork product, this recipe uses my favorite smoked ingredient hack: smoked paprika!
So even though we (outside of the South) may not be as comfortable with Southern food as other cuisines, hopefully this Old Bay Black Eyed Peas, Peach Chow Chow, and Collards recipe will show you a piece of this richly diverse and powerful cuisine. My hope is that we’ll start seeing more chicken bog and field peas on menus across the country. Until then, we can always visit restaurants like The Grey or anything created by Sean Brock.