New Year’s Day is here, and every good Southerner knows what that means: It’s time to cook up a hearty meal that echoes the good vibes a brand new year can bring: luck, prosperity and cash flow.
Whether you’re on board with the belief that eating pork, collard greens, black-eyed peas and corn bread can increase your wealth in the New Year, the way I figure it, eating good never hurt a soul. And why leave fortune to chance? Luck be a black-eyed pea, tonight.
Now, let’s break down a few of these ideas. If, at the dinner table, you’ve heard Aunt Mahilda say, “Eat your greens, boy,” it’s because green leaves look like folded money, therefore a symbol of economic fortune. Also along those lines, the black-eyed pea eaten in a dish called Hoppin’ John, is considered to bring luck. I learned recently, this all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas, and the legume was thereafter considered lucky. Corn bread, because of its yellow color, represents “gold.” Finally, the tradition of eating pork on New Year’s Day is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. Pushing forward, the animal roots itself in the ground before moving.
Much to my surprise, there are some folks from the South who’ve never heard of or eaten the prized dish known as Hoppin’ John. I’ve seen many variations on this recipe, including the way it’s prepared. My recipe uses chicken stock and ham hock for ultimate flavor!
Hoppin’ John Serves 6-8
Hoppin’ John is a rich bean dish with origins in Carolina’s Lowcountry or Gullah cooking, made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausages, ham hocks, or fat pork and rice. Its namesake has many tales–my favorite of which says a man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife took the dish from the stove.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 and 1/2 cups of black-eyed peas (Tip: I buy the kind from the produce department which are re-hydrated and only require cooking for 20 minutes.)
- Enough Chicken Broth to cover peas
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 small ham hocks
- 2 cups white rice
- 1/4 cup minced onion, for garnish
- 1/4 cup green pepper, for garnish
- Salt & Pepper
In a large stock pot, saute onion, bell pepper and garlic in butter until fragrant. Add black-eyed peas and cover with chicken stock. Add ham hocks, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Let simmer 20-30 minutes. Prepare white rice separately, according to package directions. Serve black-eyed peas over white rice and garnish with remaining onion and green bell pepper. Add pepper vinegar for a kick.
One final thought: Did you know that in Germany, it’s customary to leave a little bit of each food on your plate past midnight to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year? All I can say is, good thing I live in the South – I plan to eat every morsel! Happy New Year, and cheers to good fortune in 2017!
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Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the Statesboro Herald food columnist and host of the television program “Statesboro Cooks.” She appears regularly as Celebrity Chef at the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market and has written as a guest blogger for Visit Savannah, Savannah Taste Experience and The Local Palate. To learn more, connect with Some Kinda Good on social media, or visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk.