According to The All New Joy of Cooking, Hoppin’ John (aka Carolina Rice and Bean Pilau) is a dish that was most likely brought to the Carolinas in the early 17th century by the Huguenots. The Huguenots were (and I suppose still are) French Protestants that came to the States to escape the persecution they were experiencing in France. Pilau is a Middle Eastern dish that was brought to Provence when Muslims settled throughout Mediterranean Europe during the Middle Ages. When the dish migrated to the United States it merged with the rice dishes that were being prepared by African-Americans. The result was various ‘American’ pilaus or pilafs. Hoppin’ John is probably the most well-known. Tradition says that Hoppin’ John is served on New Year’s Day.
For the last seven years my family has celebrated New Year’s Day with some of our neighbors. We always make the Hoppin’ John and they always make the corn bread. Our neighbors are both from Georgia, so they were used to the tradition of eating black-eyed-peas on New Year’s Day as a way of bringing good luck. My mother-in-law is from Oklahoma and also grew up with the same tradition. Our neighbor told us that he used to hear that you would earn one dollar for each black-eyed-pea you ate. In today’s world, that would have to be a pretty big bowl. As we sat around the table eating, we shared many wonderful memories and stories. We discussed our new year’s resolutions and what we hoped for the coming year. I made the same two resolutions I make every year. I resolved to stay alive, so that I would be able to celebrate New Year’s next year. And I resolved to not get arrested. So far, I have never broken either resolution. No bad huh?
The food was what brought us together, but it became secondary to the time we were spending together. We also asked the question of why we only ate Hoppin’ John once a year. It was so good (and easy to make) that it should make its way into the normal menu rotation. We’ll see. What traditions do you have for New Year’s? Do you make resolutions?