I never thought I would find myself standing in the middle of a cemetery in the pitch dark as part of a haunted history tour the weekend before Halloween. [Read more…] about Haunted History Tour lets you hunt for ghosts in Old Cahawba
Alabama photographer Amanda Chapman’s world changed dramatically in 2012 when her husband Greg was diagnosed with cancer. Scared about the future of her family, she turned to her favorite holiday, Halloween to lighten the mood that had overtaken her that year. [Read more…] about How Alabama photographer, Amanda Chapman, found comfort in 31 Days of Halloween
This New Year’s Day most southerners will be cooking black-eyed peas for good luck, and that includes recipes for Hoppin’ John. We’ll also be eating greens along with them, and don’t forget the hot cornbread, slathered in butter, ready for dunking.
While some southern folk claim that eating black-eyed peas for good luck are a throwback to the Civil War, we’d all be remiss not to know the true origin of this comforting staple. While it’s true that black-eyed peas were one of the only food sources left after Sherman’s March, their tale of origin stretches much farther back.
Black-eyed peas (or cow peas) were a major crop in Africa, brought to North America via slave ships. Check out the book “In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World,” by UCLA professor of Geography Judith Carney. In it she outlines the origins and trajectories of each of Africa’s major native crops that were brought over to the U.S. on slave ships.
The legumes were used as food on slave ships and, later, they were used to feed livestock in U.S. (hence, cowpea). The black-eyed pea first found its way to America on rice plantations (think South Carolina). The technique that combines cooking rice and beans together is also of African descent. So, there you have an origin story for Hoppin’ John, too.
There are so many incarnations of Hoppin’ John! As long as you’re cooking peas and rice with pork, you’re on the right track to a proper southern New Year’s Day meal.
Before you put your own spin on rice and beans, here’s a recipe for cooking dried black-eyed peas from scratch. Keep reading to find a bacon-filled version of Hoppin’ John, too. Both recipes serve two to four and are below:
Basic Black-Eyed Peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 sprigs thyme
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 Bay leaf
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cups black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, drained
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. The onions should have some color to them. Add the thyme sprigs, garlic, bay leaf, red pepper, black-eyed peas and 8 cups cold water and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently. Skim any foam from the surface, until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and the thyme. Season with salt and black pepper.
Hoppin’ John 2 Ways
The first version of Hoppin’ John keeps your beans and rice separate, although this is a bit untraditional. Don’t worry, you can always combine it all together at the end, if you like.
6 slices of apple-smoked bacon, cooked and chopped
2 cups of rice (We used Basmati)
1 teaspoon of bacon grease, rendered from the bacon
3 ⅓ cups of water
Pinch of salt
Hoppin’ John 1
After you’ve cooked your peas, rinse the rice: Using a strainer, rinse the rice under cold, running water. Cook off the bacon and set aside. Add one teaspoon of bacon grease to a 4-quart pot with a lid. Heat up the grease and add the uncooked rice, cooking for two minutes on medium heat. You want to toast the rice a bit without burning it. Add the water and bring to a boil, stirring to incorporate.
Stir in water and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from heat the heat and let stand, covered, for about five minutes. Transfer the rice to serving bowls and spoon the peas over the rice. Top each bowl with bacon.
For Hoppin’ John Number 2, combine the peas and rice in a large bowl, reserving pea broth in a different bowl. Heat up a large cast-iron skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil or bacon grease. In batches, add the rice and pea mixture and cook it on medium heat, for a few minutes, stirring (use a wooden spoon) the whole time. As the rice sticks to the bottom of the pan, scrape it up with the wooden spoon and ladle pea broth into the skillet while continuing to stir. You can use as much or as little as you like. Add the chopped bacon and serve family style. This version is a bit thicker and stickier, but both ways offer a true taste of southern cuisine.
When I moved back to Birmingham from Washington, D.C. several years ago, I began a tradition of cooking breakfast Christmas morning. [Read more…] about Christmas memories found in cooking Christmas breakfast
My Christmas break usually lasts for about two weeks. It is a time for me to rest and relax with no worries about deadlines. I spend a lot of time with family and it’s typically very low key. My dogs love for me to be at home, because they get the constant attention they so lack when I am at work. This year, however, I decided to cap off the holiday season by taking my dad to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana where Auburn was playing Oklahoma on Jan. 2. Some friends that I sit beside at the Auburn home games had made plans to go to the Sugar Bowl after Auburn’s bowl game was announced. I really didn’t think much about going until I found out I could get tickets to the game cheaper through Stub Hub. Plus I was able to get a relatively reasonable price on a hotel room through Booking.com, so the decision to go was made.
It had been about five years since my last trip to New Orleans. A lot of people don’t particularly like New Orleans because of the 24/7 party atmosphere. I on the other hand, love the city, mainly because of the food, culture and music. I used to visit New Orleans every year, but since Hurricane Katrina I have not visited as often as I would like. The last time I was in New Orleans was in May 2011 around my birthday. I have always wanted to visit the city during the Christmas holidays. I’ve seen photos of the New Orleans hotels decorated for the holidays on social media, so I knew the holiday season would be beautiful. So not only was I going to the game but able to spend time in New Orleans during the holiday.
New Orleans has many historic hotels especially on Canal Street, the main street, and in the French Quarter. My dad and I arrived early in the evening on New Year’s Day. After checking into our hotel in the Garden District, we took the trolley to meet up with our friends at The Roosevelt Hotel. It was one of the hotels that I had seen on social media, the lobby was gorgeous. We had drinks in The Fountain Lounge and then walked to the French Quarter for dinner. We ended up eating at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar on Iberville Street in the Quarter. The restaurant is known for its charbroiled oysters, and I can testify that they do melt in your mouth. Being my father’s daughter, I struck up a conversation with the table next to me and met a woman who was a cancer survivor. She was vacationing in New Orleans for New Year’s Eve before starting a PR job in Las Vegas with MGM Entertainment. It’s funny how you meet interesting people when traveling. I have vowed to keep in touch with her.
On Monday morning, my dad and I ate breakfast at the Trolley Stop Cafe in the Garden District before meeting up with our friends. (I highly recommend the restaurant!) After we caught up with them, we hung out a while at the Marriott Hotel where the Auburn football team was staying. We saw former players and cheerleaders and, of course, Aubie the Auburn mascot. My dad stayed at the hotel while my friends and I walked around the French Quarter again. We went to see the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. Part of the experience at the bar is that it slowly turns around the room. After walking around Bourbon Street we returned to the Marriott and got ready for the game.
The game didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped it would, but the night did. After the game we ended up at the world famous Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets. The trip was fun despite Auburn’s loss. Plus I was able to spend time with my dad and my Auburn friends who have become more like family.