Hoppin’ into 2010

Black-eyed peas are thought to be good luck, which might explain the band’s success. It definitely explains why the legumes are eaten through the South on New Year’s Day.

One theory–the one found on Wikipedia–posits that the tradition dates back to the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and that Sephardic Jews brought the tradition with them to the American South via Georgia. There, the general populace picked up on the new year tradition of eating black-eyed peas and, ironically, but not surprisingly, included pork in the mix. Then again, it may have been that they were a cheap representation of copper coins. As the old Southern saw goes, “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold.”

photo by Mike LichtIn the Carolinas, where I live, the enjoyment of these black-eyed peas tends to come via the traditional New Year’s dish of Hoppin’ John. Last night, I enjoyed Hoppin John at our friends’ house and again today at our neighbors’. Actually, we had the whole triad.

I tell you all of this for three reasons:

1. One New Year’s Day tradition with Hoppin’ John is to leave three black-eyed peas on your plate (for luck, prosperity and romance). While I can’t get behind that one for food waste reasons, I do like the tradition where you count how many are on your plate to predict the amount of luck you’ll have in the new year.

2. Hoppin’ John has a built-in nomenclature for leftover eating, according to this article in The Austin Chronicle:

On the day after New Year’s Day, leftover “Hoppin’ John” becomes “Skippin’ Jenny,” and eating it demonstrates powerful frugality, bringing one even better chances of prosperity.

No idea why John turns to Jenny, but I love it.

3. I’ve really covered my bases on the New Year’s/good luck thing. Hope you did, too–Happy 2010!

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