I have nothing against football.
Ok. That’s not entirely true. I do have something against football, but that’s a conversation for another time. I know many folks have love the tradition of watching football on New Year’s Day. There’s nothing wrong with that. I can see how watching a big game could be a very entertaining way to spend an afternoon—friends gathering, themed food, excitement, all the elements of a good time.
But I adopted the traditions of our southern relatives and serve Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day. This black-eyed peas dish is served with collard or other greens and a heaping helping of cornbread. The New York Time offers great history of this tradition — It’s a great one to share at the table as you serve them up!
Seattle’s Wa Na Wari, an immersive community art project dedicated to reclaiming Black cultural space, historic preservation, and supporting Black ownership in the region, recently shared the following New Year’s Day food folklore:
- Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck in the new year.
- For the best chance of luck every day in the new year, eat 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.
- When served with greens (collards, mustard, or turnip), black-eyed peas represent coins, and greens represent paper money.
- Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold.
- Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.
- In Hoppin’ John, each pea represents a coin, and a whole serving equals prosperity.
Join Wa Na Wari for a tasty, fun, free New Year’s Day event. The organization invites the community to gather for black-eyed peas and greens every year. Both the black-eyed peas and the greens served at the event are vegan. January 1 from 12 to 2 p.m. at Wa Na Wari, 911 24th Ave. in Seattle’s Central District.wanawari.org_
Classic Hopp’n John includes a smoked ham hock, but as a vegetarian, I take culinary license and use the recipe from “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant,” adding smoked paprika. Served over rice, this is a satisfying bowl of goodness!
This very humble food doesn’t bring any of the flash and excitement of cheering fans and buffalo wings. Still, after a late night of celebrations with their exuberant expressions of love and resolutions for the coming year, a quiet day feels just right. To make the day more festive, I invite other non-football families to join, and my kids can recite to our guests the meaning of this southern dish, sometimes with a bit of eye-rolling, but I’ll take it.
After a lunch/brunch of peas, greens, and cornbread, we fly kites if the weather permits. We add a new kite to our collection every year, and Golden Gardens is our usual New Year’s Day destination—lots of air space and wind. In the past, when I was more ambitious, we made kites, but now I’m happy to purchase one, and truth be told, they are usually easier to get in the air.
In regards to the previous comment about eye-rolling, there is a conversation I’ve had with my children since they were very young about why traditions are important.
Why do we do the same things on the same days every year? Why do we bring forward practices we learned in our families of origin or choice, or why do we create our own traditions?
I know why I do it. To give my children something to build on. Something that will provide them with an anchor when they move into their own independent lives. Perhaps these things seem tedious now, but trust me, you will be glad you have them to use, discard, and make your own.
A meat-lovers recipe for those celebratory peas
Imma Adamu, a renowned Black food blogger at Immaculate Bites, wrote this about the traditional New Year’s dish: “Hoppin’ John is a hearty and soul-warming delicacy . . .Black-eyed peas were first cultivated in North Africa and eventually became popular worldwide. Then, they arrived in the southern U.S. in the 17th century. Southerners believe eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck and many other beautiful things. They associate them with prosperity as the beans resemble pennies and coins.” Here’s Adamu’s recipe:
Southern Black-Eyed Peas (Hoppin’ John)
Recipe by Imma Adamu / Immaculate Bites
Prep Time: 2 hours; Cook Time: 50 minutes; Servings: 6
- 1 pound (453g) black-eyed peas
- 4-5 thick slices bacon, chopped
- 5 ounces smoked sausage or turkey, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 2-3 teaspoons garlic, minced
- 1 optional jalapeno, minced (can replace with ¼ teaspoon cayenne)
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
- 7-8 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups (or more) collard greens (or you can use kale)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse dry black-eyed pea beans, pick through, and discard any foreign objects. Add beans to a large pot and cover with 3-4 inches of cold water. Let sit for 2-3 hours (or overnight).
- In a large, heavy sauté pan, saute chopped bacon until brown and crispy (4-5 minutes), then add sausage and saute for 2-3 more minutes. Remove bacon and sausage mixture, and set aside.
- Throw in the onions, celery, garlic, jalapenos, thyme, and bay leaf, and saute for 3-5 minutes until the onions are wilted and aromatic.
- Then, pour in the chicken broth or water.
- Drain the soaked beans, rinse, and place them in the pot. Season with Creole seasoning and salt to taste. Stir and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes.
- Toss the collard greens, bacon, and sausage into the pot, and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or more, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the broth thickens to your desired texture.
- Add more stock or water if the mixture becomes dry and thick. The texture of the beans should be thick and somewhat creamy but not watery.
- Remove the bay leaf.
- Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning if needed. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped green onion.
Recipe variations from Imma Adamu
Vegan: You may omit the meat and replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth. And to make this dish more nutritious, you can add carrots and bell peppers.
Crockpot Southern Black-Eyed Peas: This one is more effortless but equally delicious. Put everything in the crockpot, and you’ll have your dinner ready in 5-6 hours on high and about 9-10 hours on low. Imagine the things you can accomplish in those waiting hours. 😉
Tropical Twist: Make these black-eyed peas with bacon and pork creamy and interestingly yummy with coconut milk. And I bet you’ll love this dish even more.
Tomato: Fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce will also add a nice variation to this Hoppin John recipe. The kick of tangy goodness will surely make your tastebuds happy.