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HOPPING JOHN!

December 31, 2006
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Today is the day before the start of the New Year, and traditions for good luck and prosperity are numerous. One of the good luck traditions that comes from the Southern United States is to have Hopping John on New Year’s Day. The dish dates back to the days of slavery, and was made from ingredients available to the slaves. The story goes that if you eat humbly on the first day of the year, you will be prosperous for the rest.

There are a lot of traditions like this, around a lot of different foods. My friend June’s mother, Michi, makes Corned Beef and Cabbage every New Year’s day. I have no idea where she got this tradition using this very American dish, since she herself is Issei, first-generation Japanese!

I skipped making Hopping John this past New Year’s, and look what happened — I had a heart attack! So, this year, I’ve got my ingredients at the ready, and I’m prepared to start cooking this evening, for tomorrow. Here’s my favorite recipe, of the many out there, for this tasty and hearty stew:

 TRADITIONAL HOPPING JOHN      Yield: 10 servings
 
  Recipe fron the collection of Joan Mershon
 
      4    Bacon strips [*]   

1/4   C  Onion, diced
    1/2   Bell pepper, diced
    1/2   Red bell pepper, diced
      2    C FRESH Blackeyed peas
           -or purple hull peas
           -or 2 pk (10 oz) frozen blackeyed peas
    1/2  C  Uncooked white rice
      2   C  Water
           Salt & pepper, to taste
           Louisiana Hot Sauce
 
  Dice bacon*. brown in dutch oven with onion and peppers, until bacon* is
  crisp and vegetables are soft.  Add peas and rice. then water.  Cover and
  simmer over very low heat about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender. Salt
  & pepper to taste.  Add a dash of hot sauce (to taste).

What is YOUR tradition? What little thing do you do to make the coming New Year a happy, healthy and prosperous one? Please share — we can all use a little good fortune! 

EDIT: [*] If you’re vegetarian, you can use a whole black cardamom pod (available at Penzey’s or other spice and herb sources) instead: Place the whole pod in the  beginning of the cooking time — and remove it after about 1 hour, to give a smoky taste without bacon. You can also add about 1/4 tsp. of cumin for the smoky goodness. I’ve made it that way for some veggie guests, and it rocks!  –SC

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2006 6:42 am

    I don’t have any special new year’s traditions – apart from staying up late :)

    I don’t mind eating some kind of shellfish though, but that’s something I eat other days as well.

    Have a Happy New Year!

  2. laverneandshirley permalink
    December 31, 2006 3:46 pm

    I think we’re going to have Chocolate Fondue for breakfast. It’s good for you …. chocolate has antioxidants, we’ll dip fruit in it. Ah yes … it’s a healthy choice.
    –L

  3. January 1, 2007 12:48 am

    I don’t have any personal new year’s traditions, but in Spain it’s traditional to have a big family dinner on New Year’s Eve, usually with langostines and jamon as a starter. Then at midnight you are supposed to eat twelve grapes before the bells stop chiming, which is not all that easy to do unless you use peeled seedless grapes. If you finish all the grapes in time then apparently you will have good luck in the twelve months to come.

    It’s years since I’ve still been awake at midnight to eat the grapes … so much for good luck.

  4. February 24, 2007 7:40 pm

    Someone’s nicked my Hopping John piccy! I suspect (shifts eyes back and forth, just checking)…az! She said she was going to borrow it for the Diner!
    ;)

    Now I’ll have to find another…or maybe my computer is acting all crap again. That’s probably it.

  5. February 24, 2007 9:25 pm

    What? Wasn’t me! Meanwhile I see it is back again. Thanks for the reminder – I’d forgotten that I’d forgotten to put it up. Going to do it right now!

  6. February 25, 2007 5:41 am

    Okay – done. Is that your soup plate? I’ve got some just like it, in that same colour blue and also in yellow.

  7. February 26, 2007 12:25 am

    No, actually that’s a pic from Google images — and it’s for a southwestern version of Hopping John, to boot. I couldn’t get the photo that most resembles my recipe to load. They *are* cool dishes, though — the kind I like, thick simple pottery styles.

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