Do You Know Hoppin’ John?

Hoppin’ John is a simple dish of blackeyed peas over rice and sometimes greens. It is served with cornbread and traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and prosperity. One saying goes “peas for pennies, greens for dollars and cornbread for gold”. It is as traditional as barbeque in the south.

My interest in the dish, other than the delicious flavor is how a “low brow” food becomes a tradition. This dish is so old and ingrained in the culture, no one knows who first combined these ingredients.

I imagine a cook scrounging up few ingredients in her larder with her only goal to creat a hot, filling meal. She pulled together bits of ham or boiled a ham bone, added the peas and let it cook in a pot hanging over the fire in her fireplace with only an occasional stir. She had no idea she was starting a prosperity revolution. She was trying to feed her family with cheap available ingredients.

Blackeyed peas are cheap and easy to grow. They dry and store well. Often seasoned with a ham hock or bits of leftover ham, broth, and maybe a few hot peppers. Rice grows in the hot humid climate of the American South. Before it was a commercial crop, farmers would scatter seed in areas that were swampy and could not be plowed. Each of these ingredients are on the low end of the cost spectrum or easily available.

It is also an easy dish to prepare. Essentially, rinse the peas, put in a pot with seasonings, water and cook on low until done. Serve over rice with slabs of cornbread.

Of course, to reduce the cooking time for this Thursday night meal, I am going to use the Instapot. In the time it takes to make the peas in the Instapot and cook the rice in the rice cooker; I will have cornbread in the oven.

Cornbread is the most involved part of this meal in my kitchen. I grind the corn in my Kitchen Aid grain mill just prior to mixing in the other ingredients for a true delicacy. The recipe and instructions are in Simply Delicious.

As for the name “Hoppin’ John”….I have no idea.