It's been my mom's tradition each year to eat black-eye pea soup on New Year's day, for good luck the rest of the year. But we make this soup through-out the year as well, because it's tasty, and to keep our luck run'n.
Soak peas overnight. Rinse thoroughly and discard the bad peas and empty shells. Transfer peas to a large pot and cover with water about 2-3 inches above the peas.
Add salt, onion, bay leaf, celery and ham bone. Bring to a boil; skim off the foam, then cover and simmer for 2-4 hours, until the peas are tender and the water has thickened slightly and turned a pale brown.
Meanwhile prepare the topping and corn bread. First, for the topping, in a medium bowl, combine the onion, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Pour vinegar over the top to cover and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for a couple hours.
Next, prepare the corn bread (she uses jiffy mix, but feel free to make your own recipe if you prefer). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and blend well. Pour mixture into the baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean. Remove, and let cool.
Finally, when peas are finished cooking, remove from heat and discard the onion, celery and bay leaf. Remove the ham bone, pick off any meat and place meat back in pot; discard the bone. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, start with a soup bowl. Place one piece of corn bread in the center. Ladle soup over the top of the bread. Top that with some of the onion/tomato topping, including a bit of the vinegar juice. This meal is so yummy when you take a bite that has a bit of everything on your spoon.
Side note: my mom also used to fry up some potatoes as well to go with this meal.