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 New Year's Day superstitions about food. 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, even from the South, who've never heard of or eaten the prized dish known as Hoppin' John. 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 tale - my favorite of which says a man named John came "a-hoppin" when his wife took the dish from the stove.
If you've never eaten Hoppin' John, I hope you'll try it. Today, I'm sharing my recipe for the dish.
I've seen many variations of it, including the way it's prepared. My take on it uses chicken broth and ham hock for ultimate flavor.
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.
Quick Tip: This recipe calls for the black-eyed peas you can get from the produce department, which are re-hydrated and only require cooking for 20 minutes.
•2 tablespoons unsalted butter
•2 small to medium onions, chopped
•1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
•3 cloves of garlic, minced
•1 and 1/2 cups of black-eyed peas
•Enough chicken broth to cover peas
•2 small ham hocks
•2 cups white rice
•1/4 cup each minced onion and green pepper, for garnish
•Salt and pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, sauté 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, per package directions. Serve black-eyed peas over white rice and garnish with remaining onion and green bell pepper. Add pepper vinegar for a kick.
Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a food enthusiast, aspiring cooking-show host and writer. The personality behind the blog SomeKindaGood.com, she is a graduate of Georgia Southern University and is currently a student at Savannah Technical College's award-winning Culinary Institute of Savannah. Search Facebook for Some Kinda Good or tweet her @SKGFoodBlog.