I like a clean house. I just don’t like cleaning it. But I do it, anyway. This past week, though, I’ve been in a cleaning frenzy, a scrub-the-grout, tidy-the-drawers kind of cleaning. I think I’m trying to scour away 2021 and usher in a shiny new year full of possibilities. Hope it works. I’m also partaking in my favorite new year tradition — making a pot of hopping john. According to folklore, eating hopping john on New Year’s Day offers good fortune. I’d be down with that. I do know this combination of black-eyed peas, rice and greens delivers nourishment and comfort on New Year’s Day and every day of the year. How will you celebrate 2022? May it bring you good luck and all good things.
Some say black-eyed peas look like coins and collards or other greens represent paper money; therefore, you’ll make as much money as the hopping john you eat.
Black-eyed peas also fit an old superstition that if a dark-eyed man is your first visitor on New Year’s Day, love and good luck will be yours.
Who knows where such stories started? One version has hopping john originating with the slaves who brought black-eyed peas and rice from west Africa. Some say the dish got its name from a child dancing around the stove, eager for supper. What started as a slave dish, livened with a little pepper and pork, made its way into plantation kitchens.
It could be hopping john got its start even earlier, from our Celtic forebears who lighted fires on New Year’s Eve and danced around them all night. The Anglo-Saxon word hoppan means religious dance.
In either case, dancing seems as much a part of hopping john as black-eyed peas. I’m a great believer in dancing and a big fan of good luck, great fortune and hot romance. Do I believe a plate of rice and beans will make that happen? Not so much, but just enough — that’s why I’ll start the year the way I have for the past decade, with a pot of hopping john ready for New Year’s Day. Call it the victory of hop over experience (sorry).
- 1 cup black eyed peas
- 3 cups of water
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 dried hot pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 jalapeno chopped
- 3 ribs celery chopped
- 1 big bunch collard greens sliced into thin ribbons
- juice of 1 lemon
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- In a large pot, bring 3 cups of water to boil over high heat. Add black-eyed peas, 2 cloves of garlic (whole), pepper and bay leaf. Skim off any beans that float. They’re duds.
- Reduce heat to low. Simmer beans uncovered for an hour and a half until beans are tender, not mushy.
- Add brown rice and the vegetable broth. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Don’t lift that lid. Turn off the heat, leave pot on the burner and let hopping john sit.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, jalapeno, celery and the remaining 4 garlic cloves, chopped. Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring, until the vegetables soften.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add greens by the handful, and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Fluff rice and beans, fold in collard mixture. Squeeze in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Splash with hot sauce.
Looking for more dishes with black-eyed peas?