Black Eye Burritos – an American Dinner


When I met my future husband I was trying to grow some food in my backyard, after moving from New York City to live in Vallejo, CA, where we met. When he changed my life forever, he also transformed the little backyard into a food haven that even included a raised bed of corn. I just bowed out of the now lush garden and turned my attention instead to cooking and preserving all that good food. I had already been eating natural foods for a couple decades, but had been a single mother with a very picky eater, for a daughter. I really didn’t cook in quantity.

Fast forward now twelve years and I have followed him to his hometown down here in Greenville, SC where he cultivates a true field, and I’m cooking food from the garden and the coop, to not only satisfy his six foot two appetite, but our three growing buys as well. My new neighbor quickly dubbed me a Yankee. I can tell you that this Yankee girl has learned to can chow chow with the cabbage he grows, fry the fish he catches, make banana pudding from scratch, (even the pudding and the wafers,) and cheddar biscuits, just to please the man who pleases me so well.

But I’m still me, the woman who can’t resist improvising. I sometimes replace butter with coconut oil, white flour with whole wheat, milk with soy milk. I also have come up with eggplant lasagnas, offered fried tofu instead of chicken, served pancake dinners when I’m feeling my Dutch roots and chicken soup when I’m feeling my Jewish roots. Even though its not entirely true he sometimes says that I never fix anything the same way twice.

A homesteader in charge of his or her kitchen will let nothing spoil or go to waste, so the occasional improvised meal made from leftovers is to be expected. Right? And how could you expect any chef to repeat a dish made from leftovers? You can’t. You just can call it a work of art, like when Sarah Vaughn sang a song and then it was over, but you still remember her unique flavor, that particular night she sang it.

So what does all this have to do with black eye burritos? I was beginning to wonder myself. Another traditional meal down here is black eyed peas and greens and corn bread on New Years Day. This year I cooked a combination of collards and chard, and a mess of black eyed peas. I cooked the peas in a smoked turkey broth that I made from the turkey he smoked for Thanksgiving. So there’s no way I’ll be able to repeat that until he smokes another turkey. I froze the peas that we didn’t eat because there was enough for an entire other meal.

I’ve learned some new tricks down here, but I haven’t forgotten the old ones. Having lived in Alburquerque New Mexico while I was growing up, burritos have always been part of my repertoire. But I’m sure my Mexican friends would tell me that my definition of a burrito is a stretch. I used to fix my daughter hummus mini burritos with melted cheese, (high in protein and she liked them.)

Maybe I should refrain and just own up to a little yuppiness and call what I make wraps, but then again, if I’m using home made poblano sauce from my hand picked tomatillos? But then again if I’m going to use black eyed peas instead of black beans? I confess. Sometimes I have conversations in my head like this.

To bring it back around to my husband, what I’ve discovered is that there are certain meals one can mess with and others that are untouchable, like the aforementioned New Years meal that brings good fortune. So this morning I tested his feelings about burritos by mentioning that making burritos with black eyed peas might be unconventional, to which he raised an eyebrow and asked me when I ever had a problem with that, which I interpreted to mean that he might still say “what kind of burritos are these,” without a question mark, at dinner time, but that he wouldn’t actually mind, and his boys would still see him set the example and eat his entire plate of food.

So that’s what’s on the menu here tonight, before my precious avocados go bad. What’s up in your American kitchen tonight?





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