Taking Up a New Food Tradition: “Hoppin John” on New Year’s Day

 

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Though I have lived in the US for  a while now, I just learned about the tradition of eating “Hoppin John” on New Year’s day. The first description I read of it involved black-eyed peas, pork, rice and some greens. The black-eyed peas represent coins and the wish for prosperity, the greens of course represent cash. This immediately reminded me of a favorite recipe from India  and I thought I would use it. And so our first meal of the year was this bowl of golden goodness, glowing with turmeric and a little chilli powder, with a sprinkling of cilantro standing in for the greens. To me, this represents the best of all possible worlds, memories of the infusing the adventure of the present.

Further reading brought interesting facts to light: the original dish used red cow peas not the black-eyed peas used today; the rice used was  Carolina Gold and the story of how this variety disappeared from the market is a fascinating story: the soft lowlands on which Carolina Gold rice was cultivated were unsuitable for the use of machinery and there was not enough labor for the intense work required, a hurricane added a further blow. So rice production shifted to other states and other varieties. But a resurgence of this variety was brought about from grains obtained from a seed bank and a small number of farmers are growing it. (One wonders though how the issue  of labor/mechanization was resolved, material for another post perhaps!)

As I write this, I discovered yet another Indian take on black-eyed peas, this time with curry leaves, which I love, and coconut, looks like day two of the new year may also involve black-eyed peas…

One response to “Taking Up a New Food Tradition: “Hoppin John” on New Year’s Day

  1. Reblogged this on Thought + Food and commented:

    Looking back through old posts, I found this discovery of a good luck tradition for new year’s day which has now becomes a tradition! Black eyed peas are a favorite in my home and it was great to read some encouraging news about a new variety of cowpea , ready to be introduced in Nigeria. The cultivation of cow peas has been hit by the pod borer and required heavy application of pesticides. The new variety is modified to resist insects and will bring down the use of pesticides. This is better for the environment and brings down costs for the farmer as well. the consumer also benefits as a great source of protein becomes more accessible. From the Cornell Alliance For Science:
    https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2017/11/gmo-cowpea-offers-hope-for-boosting-nutrition-economy-in-nigeria/

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