Black Eye Pea Series LbNA # 52073
|Placed Date||Jan 24 2010|
|Last Found||Aug 12 2010|
The Black Eye Pea Series
"Peatini" is Retired as of 11/26/10
The History of the Black-Eyed Pea
(excerpts from Texas Highways Magazine, July 1994)
Like most folks in the South, Athenians have been eating Black-Eyed Peas longer than anyone can remember. The
modern age of the black-eyed pea euphoria began around 1909, when the late J. B Henry, an Athens businessman,
decided to grow the "pitch-peepered" legume in large quantity. As J.B.’s granddaughter Nancy Duff tells it,
"He discovered the dried black-eyed pea when he was experimenting with ways to rid the pea vine of weevils and
dried them out in an oven on East Tyler Street." Long after J.B.’s death in 1940, folks still spoke of him as
the "Black-Eyed Pea King of East Texas."
For many years, some southerners and many northerners viewed the black-eye, or cowpea, as mere livestock feed,
but Athenian efforts did much to change that. A 1919 Farm and Ranch magazine article titled "The Humble Cowpea"
stated that "the whole population of Athens, seemingly, and then some," was busily loading sacks of black-eyed
peas onto wagons, "rushing around that square like bees around a hive in springtime when the honeysuckle crop
Several canning plants opened in the late 1930s and early 1940s and the Home Folks brand of black-eyed peas
became one of the town’s largest businesses. For many years, the company marketed a specially labeled brand
called Good Luck Peas for New Year’s Day, and Neiman Marcus carried Home Folks’ pickled black-eyes as "Texas
Caviar" as late as 1971. Home Folks owner Frank Dorsey closed the plant in the early 1970s, but Henderson
County agricultural extension agent Rick Hirsch says a lot of the area farmers and backyard gardeners still
grow the peas, though current production runs less than in past decades.
To memorialize the black-eyed boom days, in 1971 Athens unveiled the first-ever Black-Eyed Pea Jamboree.
Categories in a cook-off have utilized black-eyed peas in green Jell-O, pizza, enchiladas, "peachyssoise,"
quiche, "every kind of cake and pie you can think of", and even black-eyed pea wine. The late Bill Perryman, an
Athens oil man, invented a perennial jamboree favorite, the peatini. "It’s a martini with marinated black-eyed
peas instead of olives," says Mary Ann Perryman, Bill’s widow. "The recipe is in the Dallas restaurant’s Routh
Street Cookbook. We even patented the peatini logo."
Most pea historians trace the good luck image of pigmented legumes to the pharaohs of Egypt. The late Elmore
Rural Torn of Taylor, Texas, founder of the International Black-Eyed Pea Appreciation Society and father of
actor Rip Torn, said that certain Asiatic, African, and European cultures ate black-eyed peas to protect them
from the Evil Eye. Local Athenian, Mary Lou Williams points out that southerners ate more cowpeas than usual
during the Civil War out of necessity, then continued the ritual each New Year’s Day as a gesture of humility.
The tradition must have declined a bit at some point, however, as Frank Tolbert (whose Dallas newspaper column
focused on Athens so much that one reader accused him of running for town mayor) often credited Elmore Torn
with revival of the good-luck meal in this country.
Black Eye Pea Series
#1 "Peatini" is RETIRED!!! My Peatini was tossed over a fence in wooded area. I have found another letter in the same vicinity hidden by Monarch Trailer that was thrown over the fence. I figure this area of the cemetery isn't the best hiding place.
Directions to "Peatini"
On the North side of the Henderson County Courthouse square in Athens,Tx. turn south on Prairieville and drive
0.3 miles to the entrance of the Athens Cemetery. Turn right into the cemetery drive. There is a directory to
your left as you enter the gate. Find your way to block E. Look for the large Perryman Monument. Peatini lies
within this monument. If your eyes are sharp you could find something more than just "Peatini".