“Texas caviar” is the name for pickled black-eyed peas. Helen Corbitt helped to popularize the dish, but she didn’t invent the name.
The dish is sometimes called “Cowboy caviar.” Some insist that it’s called “Cowboy Caviar” only when the black-eyed peas are replaced with black beans.
The Best from Helen Corbitt’s Kitchens (Evelyn Oppenheimer Series, No. 1)
by: Helen Corbitt
Rating: *****- the grande dame of texas cuisine
This cookbook reintroduces Helen Corbitt, though if you have lived in Texas for years you are no doubt familiar with her. She became famous as the head of the restaurants of Neiman-Marcus department stores, and many Texans know her through her texas “caviar”, hot fudge pecan balls, retro molded salads, fabulous “potluck” recipes, poppy seed dressing, and other Texas favorites. If you cannot find the original editions, this is certainly one to own. You will find yourself using it over and over again.
I always wondered where the “Black Eyed Peas and Triscuits” reference came from. Might have to try this one sometime!
Posted by: HomefrontSix at February 10, 2005 05:54 PM
Helen Corbitt, who was head caterer at Neiman-Marcus back in the day (40-50 years ago) and published several cookbooks, has a similar recipe. Hers calls for much more oil though, and no tomato or cumin. Yours sounds mighty good.
Posted by: Dr Alice at February 12, 2005 07:59 PM
1 January 1943, Mexia (TX) Weekly Herald, pg. 1:
Soldiers to Eat
Peas for Luck
Goes on Menu
DALLAS, Tex, Dec. 31.—(UP)—It’s an old southern custom, and the army will feed soldiers at Love Field black-eyed peas—for good luck—on New Year’s Day.
The boys from the south say that this dish—“Texas caviar”—is a tradition which dates back to the days when masters visited their colored slaves on New Year’s Day and saw the peas the colored mammies had cooking in the pot.
And there were many ideas as to how they should be served. Some wanted theirs with onions, some with rice—and some with sow belly with the buttons on. Lieut. Arnold Heller, mess officer ,was trying out different recipes today to see what type of black-eyed peas the boys would curl a lip around tomorrow.
But when the boys from the north were shown the little bean-shaped peas with winking black eyes they said, “Why, that’s what we feed our cows.”
11 January 1943, Dallas Morning News, section 11, pg. 2:
Next to the venerable and hoary age of the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck must be credited the homeliness and folksiness of the custom. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, to learn in the pages of the Taylor Press that soldiers at Love Field here in Dallas call this dish Texas caviar. The Press may absolve itself in the matter since the account is a news agency story under a Dallas dateline. Black-eyed peas may be caviar to the General, but they are plain peas to the average Texas doughboy. You might as well tell the average Russian that his caviar is really Soviet black-eyes.
13 April 1958, Los Angeles Times, How America Eats: “What’s Cooking in Texas?” by Clementine Paddleford, pg. K30:
You haven’t had Texas Caviar, or flowerpot ice cream? Or Cheddar cheese soup? You haven’t seen Helen Corbitt’s cookbook?
(...) (Pg. 32—ed.)
It’s the pickled black-eyed peas made in the restaurant kitchen that Dallas folks call “Texas Caviar,” a Helen invention.
“The black-eyed pea, a traditional good luck food in the South to be eaten on New Year’s Day, was all news to me,” Helen said. “Never had heard of such shenanigans, and I didn’t like those peas cooked in the ‘Hoppin’ John’ manner, so I turned them out pickled.” Ever since, she has served this “Texas Caviar” at her cocktail parties. Other women do too, the men goobble them up.
(...) (Pg. 33—ed.)
Pickled Black-Eyed Peas
2 cans dried black-eyed peas
1 cup salad oil
1/4 cup salad oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Drain liquid from peas. Place peas in bowl; add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Store in a jar in refrigerator and remove garlic bud after one day. Store at least two days more. Yield: 1 quart peas.
13 June 1985, Los Angeles Times, “Culinary SOS” by Rose Dosti, pg. H37:
Texas Caviar: An Appetizing Salad