At least once a year, if not more often, we get into a nerdy copy-editing spat over the spelling of the obligatory legumes served on New Year's Day. Are they black-eyed peas or black-eye peas?
Southern humorist Roy Blount, Jr.--author and perennial panelist on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, nudged up against the black-eye/-eyed pea dilemma in a recent essay in Garden & Gun magazine:
By the way, people of the North have tried to tell me that the word barefooted is Southern; that barefoot is standard. But "barefooted as a yard dog" is a fuller-bodied expression than John Greenleaf Whittier's "barefoot boy, with cheek of tan." The feet involved are not only more pronounced, but more grounded. That -ed at the end is the toes. If you prefer barefooted over barefoot, you are less likely to get romantic about living as a woodland creature or tilling the earth au naturel.
So before 2010 dawns, leaving us once again to haggle over the hyphenation of our New Year's meal, I decided to ask WWRD and I sent the following email c/o Garden & Gun:
I read your funny piece in the back page of the April/May issue of Garden & Gun, which dovetailed with a topic we've been debating here on the Scene's food blog, Bites:
Black-eyed pea or black-eye pea?
I'm writing a blog post about this searing question of Southern culinary literacy, and was hoping I could get you to weigh in on the controversy. I tend to think the extra "d" adds a grittiness that befits the peas. Then again, I'm not lobbying for red-eyed gravy, even though it makes more sense than red-eye gravy, which sounds like it was flown in overnight from Los Angeles--unless of course the nocturnal flight is why it calls for coffee.
Two hours later I received this response sent from an iPhone:
I'm not somewhere where it's easy to respond at length, but think you are right about the grit added by the "d." At any rate the "d" belongs there.
That pretty much settles the matter, as far as I'm concerned, but if Mr. Blount gets to a place where it's easy to respond at length, I'll let you know what he says.