White-acre peas are about as as southern as you can get; I've never seen them sold outside the region. Here, you can buy them at the market in their "shells," or you can buy large bags of them, already shelled, at Wards for blanching and freezing. They're one of the few legumes that grow really well here, so they're worth preserving for the future.
I love shelling them myself, for old times sake, but the pre-shelled ones are handy. They're quick to cook - about 20 minutes - and, while traditionally cooked with bacon or ham hocks, we usually just salt the water a little. Decorated with fresh tomatoes and the Graham's heavenly hot pepper jelly, they are just so good.
I ate them on rice as a kid or just as a side, alone. But you can make a meal of them on polenta or yellow grits. It's quick easy, and pretty to look at.
WHITE ACRE PEAS
4 cups shelled peas
Lightly salted water to cover
A pint of cherry tomatoes or two large tomatotes, chopped, salted and peppered
3 tablespoons chopped chives
5 basil leaves, slivered
Wash peas and cover with salted water in a large saucepan. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer for 20 minutes. Meantime, quarter cherry tomatoes or chop large tomatoes. Salt and pepper them. Mix with 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh chives, and five (or so) basil leaves, slivered. When peas are tender, mix with tomatoes and herbs. Serve warm.
2 cups grits (the yellow ones are prettier)
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar (optional, of course, if you just want "grits")
Slowly pour the grits into rapidly boiling, salted water. Whisk a little to break up any clumps. Turn to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes till soft. Stir in cheese and add salt and pepper to taste. Voila! Or rather now ain't that something?