I did make it back before the new year and that should count for something, right?
Now, let's talk about Hoppin' John. If you grew up in the South, like I did, I am sure you are familiar with the custom of eating black-eyed peas and greens on New Year's Day. My Canadian Celt of a husband thought I was joking when I started talking about preparing this meal. "Isn't black-eyed peas a band? And what in the world are collard greens?" Much to my surprise, he is not the only one who seems to be somewhat in the dark. Many, many of my southern friends and family seem to have no idea why this meal is consumed, outside of it having become a cultural/social holiday norm. Year after year they prepare and partake with no thought as to why.
The first historical account of Hoppin' John appears in Frederick Law Olmsted's A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States written in 1856. It is commonly believed that Hoppin' John is a combination of French and African culinary influence and superstitions. During the early years of slavery, Southern plantation owners discovered that rice grew quiet well and could easily turn a profit. As a result, slave traders brought over West Africans who were experience in the cultivation of rice beds. Soon they also began to import black-eyed peas from the same region. With rice, black-eyed peas, and strong memories of home, West African slaves began preparing Hoppin' John.
Marie Laveau's Hoppin' John
1 lb. Black-Eyed Peas
8 slices Bacon, cut into fourths
1 1/2 cups Onions, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
½cup bell pepper finely chopped
2 1/2 quarts water
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
1/8 teaspoon Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 cups raw Rice
Soak black-eyed peas overnight in water. Fry bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Add 1 1/2 cups onions, and cook until the onions are transparent. Add 2 1/2 quarts water, bring to boil. Add garlic cloves, thyme, bay leaf, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Drain peas and add the boiling mixture. Barely simmer mixture, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hour. Add 2 cups raw rice.
Please note that there are hundred's of variation on Hoppin' John. Personally, I prefer adding cayenne pepper and insist on red onions. Two reasons 1) I like it HOT! :) 2) Red is often associated with luck, fast luck in particular. A quick google search will help you find a recipe that appeals to you. Just keep in mind that rice, peas, and pork are the staples.
Wishing wealth, health, and prosperity from our house to yours!