Hoppin’ John: Eat poor on New Year’s Day, eat rich the rest of the year!

Thank you to WhatsCookingAmerican.net: for one take on The History of Hoppin John:

BlackEyedPeas©2014 C.HutsonWrenn

BlackEyedPeas©2014 C.HutsonWrenn

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, and rice. In Africa, where the dish originated, beef would have been the meat of choice according to historian, Suzannah Miles.

There are many variations to traditional Hoppin’ John. Some cook the black-eyed peas and rice in one pot, while others insist on simmering them separately. Some also like to add the collard greens in the pot. The favorite way to eat a Hoppin’ John meal is with collard greens and corn bread. Each item on the plate has symbolic meaning for the New Year. Black-eyed Peas represent “coins,” collard greens represent money or “green backs”, corn bread represents “gold,” and if tomatoes are added to Hoppin’ John it symbolizes “health”.

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, but writer, historian Suzannah Miles has proposed the idea that the name comes from a paraphrased Gullah version of the French words for pigeon peas, pois pigeons, pronounced “pwa-peejohn.” Totally makes sense.

Here is some of Suzannah Miles’s writing on Hoppin’ John from Charleston Magazine last year.

“It‘s common to add a touch of red pepper or hot sauce. A 1912 News & Courier article described the way old-time cooks made hoppin’ John: “Give her some peas, some rice, a bit of fat bacon, and two or three pods of red pepper, and she would turn you out a dish of Hoppin’ John, with each grain of rice separate from the other and the rice from the peas.”

Black-eyed peas are traditionally used in Charleston hoppin’ John, yet field peas, crowder peas, and even kidney beans may be employed. The peas are accompanied by long-grain white rice. Some people serve the rice and peas separately; others cook the two together. The oldest Lowcountry recipes call for adding fried bacon to the mixture.

And in addition to the shiny dime, another tradition calls for each person to leave three peas on the plate after finishing, with one each to represent luck, wealth, and romance.” Thank you, Suzannah!

Southern Stories about Hoppin’ John:

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 year.

If you eat leftover Hoppin’ John the day after New Year’s Day, then the name changes to Skippin’ Jenny since one is demonstrating their determination of frugality. Eating a bowl of Skippin’ Jenny is believed to even better your chances for a prosperous New Year! – Source: Beyond Black-Eyed Pease: New Year’s good-luck foods, by Mick Bann, Dec. 26,2008, Austin Chonicle.

I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in art, Charleston South Carolina, creativity, Food, Gullah, South Carolina History
2 comments on “Hoppin’ John: Eat poor on New Year’s Day, eat rich the rest of the year!
  1. Charlotte i had blackeyed peas and bacon in the morning and blackeyed peas and ham hocks in the eveing tho’ no cabbage-next year!

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Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

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