Thursday, December 28, 2023

Happy New Year - Please!


Don and I - 49 years later...

Here we are again, at the end of the year, and the beginning of a whole new cycle. December has always been a momentous month in my life. Besides Christmas, my family celebrated my mother’s birthday, my grandfather’s birthday, my sister Carol’s birthday, and my birthday. My mother and grandfather are gone, but Carol and I are partying on! 

2024 is going to be quite a year. For one thing Don and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in the fall, which if you had any idea, Dear Reader, some of the health things he's been through over the decades, you would be as amazed as I am, though nobody could be more grateful.

Another reason 2024 will be one for the books - well, I think we all know what the stakes are. So let me wish you all a fabulous year, many happy returns, many good books to read, and may every good thing come to pass for you and your loved ones.

In my family, we always begin the new year with black eyed peas for luck, so here's one for you.

 Hoppin’ John is a Southern dish that is traditionally served with greens on New Year’s Day in order to bring good luck and prosperity. Of course you don’t have to wait until January 1 to eat hoppin’ john. It’s delicious whenever you eat it. It’s good for you, too. I haven’t used the hoppin’ john recipe in any of the Alafair novels as of this writing, but I expect I will. It’s too yummy not to use.

Hoppin' John

I’m giving the scratch recipe, but there is no reason one can’t simply open a can of black-eyed peas and doctor it up with onion and garlic and bacon or ham hock. In fact, that’s what I did yesterday.

1 1/4 cups of dried black-eyed peas

4 cups of fresh water or broth

1 cup of chopped onion

3 cloves of minced garlic (I like mine garlicky)

1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)

1 Tbsp. oil

ham hock or large chunk of fat back or bacon.

Soak the peas in water overnight. Drain, then cover with the fresh water or broth. Heat the oil in a large stock pot and brown the ham or bacon. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the peas with their liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for an hour, until the peas are tender and luscious. If needed, add more liquid as the peas cook.

Serve over rice, with a side of cooked greens (or mix rice and greens and peas all together). Best eaten with a buttery hunk of cornbread. For luck in the new year, add a coin to the pot just before serving. Whoever gets the coin will have a prosperous year. (Be sure and warn everyone to be on the lookout for the coin, unless you want to start the new year with a trip to the dentist.

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