Friday, January 6, 2012

Leapin' Lizards and Hoppin' John

Well, most of us are finishing up the last of our Hoppin' John leftovers. We only eat it once a year so it doesn't get boring eating it for 3 or 4 days in a row. Of course, the only day that it must be eaten is January 1 - New Year's Day. The custom, derived from the African-American community, is that it is eaten on that day to ensure good luck in the coming year. Keep in mind that it is made with cow peas (aka field peas) and not with black-eyed peas. (There are parts of the South that eat the latter for good luck, but they are not used in making Hoppin' John.) It doesn't hurt to eat a few greens (collards) on New Year's to help with your finances in the upcoming year. But if you missed eating either of these dishes at the start of the year, you can try eating a few benne wafers to get you through. (Benne is the term that the Black community uses to refer to sesame seeds which they considered good luck.) And these little cookies can be purchased all over town in giftshops - or you can make your own wafers using the receipt (recipe) found in the traditional cookbook, "Charleston Receipts." A lot of restaurants will be serving up "new traditional" foods this week during Restaurant Week (Jan 12-22). I say" new" because they are a new twist to some old dishes. But some foods - like Hoppin' John, red rice and okra pearlo (pilau) - have been just fine for centuries the way they are. So enjoy the "new" dishes but don't neglect the tried and true.

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