Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year.
Rice for riches and peas for peace.
Southern saying on eating a dish of Hoppin' John on New Year's Day.
Hoppin' John is found in most states
of the South, but it is mainly associated with the Carolinas. Gullah
or Low Country cuisine reflects the cooking of the Carolinas,
especially the Sea islands (a cluster of islands stretching along
the coats of south Carolina and northern Georgia). Black-eyed peas,
also called cow peas, are thought to have been introduced to America
by African slaves who worked the rice plantations. Hoppin' John is a
rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausages,
ham hocks, or fat pork, rice, and tomato sauce.
This African-American dish is
traditionally a high point of New Year's Day, when a shiny dime is
often buried among the black-eyed peas before serving. Whoever gets
the coin in his or her portion is assured good luck throughout the
year. For maximum good luck in the new year, the first thing that
should be eaten on New year's Day is Hoppin' John. At the stroke of
midnight on New Year's Eve, many southern families toast each other
with Champagne and a bowl of Hoppin' John. If it is served with
collard greens you might, or might not, get rich during the coming
There are many variations to
traditional Hoppin' John. Some cook the peas and rice in one pot,
while others insist on simmering them separately.
The first written recipe for Hoppin John appeared in The Carolina Housewife in 1847.
Most food historians generally agree that Hoppin John is an American dish with
African/French/Caribbean roots. There are many tales or legends that explain how Hoppin' John got its name:
It was the custom for children to
gather in the dining room as the dish was brought forth and hop
around the table before sitting down to eat.
A man named John came "a-hoppin"
when his wife took the dish from the stove.
An obscure South Carolina custom
was inviting a guest to eat by saying, "Hop in, John"
The dish goes back at least as far
as 1841, when, according to tradition, it was hawked in the
streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled black man
who was know as Hoppin' John.
Hoppin' John Recipe:
Yields: 8 servings
Prep time: 15 min
Soak time: 1 to 2 hours
Cook time: 2 hr
2 cups dried
1 pound lean slab bacon or 1 pound meaty ham hocks
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups water or chicken broth
2 cups uncooked
long-grain white rice
Salt and black pepper to taste
Before preparing dried beans, sort through them thoroughly for tiny pebbles or other debris. Soak,
rinse, and drain dried black-eyed peas. Place black-eyed peas in a
large soup pot over medium-high heat and cover with cold water;
bring to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 to 2 hours. Drain and rinse beans.
Using the same large soup pot, over
medium-high heat, add soaked black-eyed peas, bacon or ham hock,
onion, and red pepper. Add water or chicken broth; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the
peas are tender (do not boil as the beans will burst).
Remove bacon or ham hock and cut into
bite-size pieces. Return meat to pot. Stir in rice, cover, and cook
20 to 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Happy New Year!
Makes 8 servings.