2015 is here and I’m not taking any chances. As I type, there is a huge pot of Hoppin’ John simmering on my range. For all my Yankee friends, I don’t expect you to know what Hoppin’ John is. I learned how to make it a few years back after a conversation with an old southern lady who sold Real Estate out of the same office as Steven. She and Steven had and in-depth conversation about all things collard, and grits and pork-ish. I was intrigued. In an effort to be a good sport, I decided to try a few recipes for my Kentucky-bred spouse.
Turns out I’m a pretty good Southern Living cook! After my Hoppin’ John venture was determined a success, I used to cook it occasionally in the cooler months. And then about 5 or 6 years ago, someone told me that in the south, eating black-eyed peas (the main ingredient in this recipe) on New Year’s Day, would bring luck throughout the coming year. So then it became a once a year treat for January 1. Until last year…when I was too busy and too stressed out to plan ahead and have the ingredients on hand. So I skipped it.
In the beginning of last year, I had a bat-crap-crazy manager whose main focus was to get me fired. She almost broke me and I almost quit. Luckily, I sucked up the humiliation for the sole reason of maintaining our health insurance. It was miserable for me until spring when her managers, who had been planning on moving her out of power for almost a year, finally dropped the bomb. She was gone to another department where she couldn’t torment me daily, but it’s taken until just recently where I feel normal again.
There were lots of other unpleasant situations in 2014 which included Zoey’s little benign doggy tumor, the breaks going out in Steven’s car while he was driving home on the interstate from a PET scan, and of course culminating in the recent chemotherapy that didn’t work and the inability to get scheduled for the beginning steps of this bone marrow transplant fiasco. Can I chalk this all up to a lack of Hoppin’ John last January 1? Hell no…or probably not…or maybe not all of it. But whatever, the fact is that this meal tastes great and it doesn’t hurt to eat a little insurance!
So if you have the calories to spare, and want the extra luck, here is the recipe. And don’t forget the corn bread!
1 POUND DRIED BLACK-EYED PEAS
5 STRIPS BACON, CHOPPED
1 LARGE ONION, CHOPPED
2 CLOVES GARLIC, MINCED
1 POUND COOKED HAM, CUBED SMALL
1 HAM BONE OR HAM HOCKS (EWWW, GROSS. BUT NECESSARY)
BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE
1/4 TSP. RED PEPPER FLAKES
2 – 5 SHOTS TABASCO SAUCE (I USE 5 FOR THE KICK)
Pick over peas for stones, rinse and cover peas with cold water. Bring to a boil, boil 1 minute, remove and cover peas. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain & rinse. Let sit in colander.
In a large pot, saute bacon until golden brown to release fat, add onions and garlic, and saute until onion is softened.
Add the peas to pork and onion mix along with the ham, ham bone and seasonings, adding enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently until peas are tender but not mushy. (1 – 2 hours) Taste for seasoning and adjust.
Cook rice separately. Mound rice in bowl and cover with peas and serve with warm corn bread. Serves 6-8 on NEW YEAR’S DAY TO BRING GOOD LUCK.
There is a lot I’m not sure about these days. But there are a few things that I still know to be true. First, Steven and I are a great team. We’re both a little scared about the bone marrow transplant. But we know we’re going to get through it because we’re incredibly strong when we work together. And that was reinforced too clearly just a few hours ago. While we were watching a TV Steven loudly blurted, “Oh, God!” for no apparent reason. When I asked him what was wrong he said, “feel this.” And he put my hand on his neck. He has a walnut sized lump there. I asked, “Is that a tumor?” He said, “Yes. I always wondered what the doctor was feeling around for at exams.” Surprisingly to both of us, he wasn’t phased, and neither was I. We accept tumors as part of our life. And the reality that we could take it in stride, go back to watching TV and not flip out just proves to me that just the aroma of the Hoppin’ John is making feel like it’s all going to be fine!
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL.
XOXO ALEXANDRA & TUMOR BOY
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