Hoppin’ John for the New Year
Hoppin’ John on New Year’s day means good luck in the year ahead.
If we traveled the world from Africa to Asia and all the points of the diaspora, we could eat only rice and we would not starve. On the contrary, we would feast. We could start on New Year’s Day in Charleston, South Carolina, where certainly we would eat hoppin’ John, the traditional holiday meal of black-eyed peas and rice, seasoned with a bit of smoked pork. The dish is considered a symbol of good fortune for the year ahead. As culinary historian Jessica B. Harris explains in her wonderful essay “Prosperity begins with a Pea,” although some historians connect hoppin’ John to the way it sustained the hungry during the Civil War, “For African Americans, the connection between beans and fortune is surely complex. Perhaps, because black-eyed peas can be germinated, having some extra on hand at the New Year guaranteed sustenance provided by a new crop of the fast-growing vines. The black-eyed pea and rice combination also forms a complete protein, offering all the amino acids. During slavery, one ensured of such nourishment was lucky indeed.”
From the book Between Harlem and Heaven by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls. Copyright © 2018 by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved.