I know a woman who once spotted a beautiful plant alongside a country road, the stalks topped with purplish-pink flowers and lined with short, thin thorns. She drove home, grabbed a shovel and a pair of gloves, and returned to dig up the beast. She planted it in her front flower bed, smack dab in the middle, the place of honor. She was so proud of the new addition to her garden that she snapped a picture and posted it on her Facebook page, only to be told by her friends that what she had lovingly transplanted was nothing more than Bull thistle – a common weed.
It’s a new year, and 2017 was a horror. It seems like everyone I know is desperate to make 2018 something better, more hopeful, lighter, kinder. But when all we have to plant are the seeds of the previous year, it can feel a bit like filling our gardens with Bull thistle. That doesn’t mean, though, that what blooms won’t be beautiful.
It is tradition in these parts to eat black-eyed peas (or “Hoppin’ John”) on New Year’s Day to bring good luck for the upcoming 365. Making this recipe is a bit like planting that thistle: it’s an investment of hope. I don’t think it matters what day you eat black-eyed peas. There’s enough luck there for the whole year. Since this is my first recipe, I should warn you that my approach is similar to most Missouri cooks – which is to say, pretty loose and unprofessional.
New Year’s Black-Eyed Peas
Soak black-eyed peas in water over night. I used two cups of peas to six cups of water. It’s good to sort through your peas and give them a good rinse before soaking.
In a heavy pot, heat up some olive oil. Throw in finely diced carrots, celery, and onions. The French call this a mirepoix. It is guaranteed to make any pot of anything turn out a million times better.
After that has softened up a bit, add chopped garlic, hot pepper (serrano or jalapenos work well), and thyme. Throw in a ham hock or some pork jowl and cover the whole thing with chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Then drain your peas and put them in the pot. Boil the crap out of the peas till they are nice and soft.
Collard greens or kale would be dynamite here, as well.
Serve them up with rice, a sprinkle of cayenne, and a heavy hand of green onion.