I live in Alabama, and though I wasn’t born here and didn’t even move here until I was in my late thirties, I have come to be All-Things-Alabamian. For those who don’t know, we attach miracle-like attributes to many of our foodstuffs here. Black-eyed peas, for instance, are thought to bring good luck throughout the South, especially when served on New Year’s Day. Well, who needs good luck then? Good luck is most appreciated when it matters most, and when it matters most here is now — the days following Thanksgiving.
You see, we are very different from the rest of you. For instance, the holiday just passed, the one y’all call Thanksgiving, is known here as Turkey Day. It’s part of a pantheon of Holidays, or — as we prefer, using the words the way they were first spoken — The Holy Days. Each one of The Holy Days, also called the Four Hoarse Men of the Apocalypse because of the way every Alabamian will be talking in 48 hours, has its own name.
The Holy Days begin on Thursday with Turkey Day. Though called Thanksgiving Day throughout most of the Union, we put off our title of Thanksgiving until Sunday. Turkey Day is so named because most of the people in the state dine on turkey this day, and because the Ritual Name-Calling begins. Here’s a cleaned-up version of one of the many phrases used. “Your &%$# quarterback‘s so #^@%$# dumb he raises his $#@& face to the heavens when it’s raining — like a $#%@?’ turkey!” It must be added here that the author believes that when the young quarterback lifts his head up to the heavens, as all of them seem to do, the boy is actually praying. He’s not trying to drink the rainwater as real turkeys do.
Comparing people to turkeys is a scientific specialty in Alabama. Farm-raised turkeys, for instance, are not considered real smart. If one is hunting a wild turkey, though, the fowl is considered one of the wiliest, most intelligent creatures on earth.Turkey hunting and turkey farming are big deals here. I would say the people of Alabama know more about the habits and customs of turkeys than the residents of all the other states put together, and many of us will even act like turkeys over the next few days. The quarterbacks, however, do not. Why farm-raised turkeys and wild turkeys are so different in character, I have not yet figured out. Perhaps they are like convicts. A convict in jail is considered stupid, but if a sheriff is hunting one down who is wild and free, the convict is considered wily and dangerous. But that’s something we’ll have to take up another time. Back to the Holy Days.
Following Turkey Day is Great Friday, also called the Day of Rest, because like the “rest” of the nation, most of us go shopping. Unlike those shoppers, though, we buy stuff to get us through the next Holy Day — the Big One — Game Day. My personal shopping list includes dip ingredients, chips, and plenty of beer. I’d say my fellow Alabamians have pretty much the same list as me.
After Great Friday is the Holiest Day of all — Game Day — the Day our two largest, greatest, Most Holy religious organizations go head-to-head in an effort to see which one will claim the Highest Denomination prize, an award that lasts only one year, though it often seems like a lifetime to half of us. There may be religious freedom in the rest of the United States, but not here. When one crosses the Alabama state line with the intention of living here, he or she must make a decision on which Most Holy religious organization to join. For native Alabamians, this decision is expected to be made before one’s 13th birthday, and one puts off this decision at the risk of being ridiculed, or, in some cases, tarred-and-feathered. History and historical mannerisms are important to Alabamians.
After Game Day, a day that sometimes seems to last far longer than it actually does, comes Sunday. Sunday is a day when many people throughout the rest of the nation take time out to slow down and relax. Not here. In Alabama this is a Holy Day that’s just as important as the other three Holidays — this is the true Thanksgiving Day, also called Gloat Day.
Approximately half of the people throughout the state, even ones who haven’t been to church in months, will suddenly show up in our cathedrals wearing ties displaying the colors of their chosen religion — either red and white or orange and blue. Gloat Day, also known as We Have the Right to Look Down on You Day, is probably our favorite Holy Day of all. Our myths, jokes, and about half of all the words we’ll speak in the next 365 days will be related to what happened on Game Day. We’ll talk about the mystic Coach Who-Walked-on-Water, the Coach who uttered, “Punt-Bama-Punt,” and the Coach who sat at the right side of the Holy Father and pleaded, “Let Bo Roll Right.” We’ll place our hand over the imprint of the High Priest Joe Namath’s hand and wonder how any mortal could hope to have such a huge finger spread; and we’ll praise the Holy Duo of Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley, and wonder what Great Sin they committed to cause them to lose the Great Game of ‘71.
But most of all, we’ll worship at the feet of the New Chosen One — the Coach Who Wins on Game Day. The other one — the Great Loser, The Great Turkey — will wear sackcloth, shave his head, and be paraded down the streets in chains to the chopping block. He deserves nothing less.
Thus, knowing the power of Miracle-Making Black-Eyed Peas, and wanting to do everything within my ability to help my own religion, I will begin the ritual. Today I will make “Miracle-Making Black-Eyed Peas” and stuff myself with them. A word to the wise: If you live in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, North Carolina, etc. — your religion may be involved in an upcoming, all-consuming, intra-state battle, too. Please make and eat some of this miracle food. It may not help your team, but it’s actually good for you.
Miracle-Making Black-Eyed Peas Dip
- 1-2 tbs. canola oil
- 1 lb. ground sausage (I prefer Jimmy Dean’s Hot. Any good bulk sausage will do)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 cans (15.5 oz.) black-eyed peas (I prefer Bush’s Best) Sometimes I drain them, but I usually add them liquid and all. Empty one can into a bowl.
- 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
- 1-2 tbs. Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
- 2 tbs. chili powder
- 1-4 bags chips (I prefer Fritos Scoops!)
In a large frying pan or medium pot, heat oil, adding sausage, onion, and garlic. Cook until done. Pour off grease into empty pea can for responsible disposal. Please don’t pour it down the sink.
Add tomatoes, spices, and all the peas. Lower heat and cook, uncovered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When cooled slightly, pour what you need into a bowl, dip a chip, and pray for a win.
And I cannot leave without some final words — some shout-outs for some of the sects of my religion in their rivalries in other parts of the South on Game Day.
My religion requires it.
I apologize ahead of time if I anger half of the Deep South. Please remember, “It’s better to get mad than to get even.”
Beat ‘em, Dawgs!
Whip ‘em, Blue Devils!
Stick it to ‘em, Bulldogs!
But most of all: