Friday, December 28, 2007

Hoppin' John and Collard Greens or Ringing in the New Year

(For Joan, who asked)
You know it wasn't just yesterday that I discovered that I really love Southern cooking. I've known it ever since I was big enough to sit up at the table with a chicken leg in one hand and one of Mammy's biscuits in the other. No one can quite make biscuits like our grandmothers, can they, Belles? No matter how much I watched her with that bowl of flour, from step one to step oven, I could never match her for tenderness, flakiness, or just plain goodness. They always came out of the oven exactly the same golden brown every time, the steam rising off them carrying with it the faint sour smell of buttermilk. I was having a discussion with my neighbor, Joanne, about buttermilk. She likes to eat cornbread in buttermilk, just like Mac does (and he loves saltine crackers mixed up in it, too.) I don't like the taste of buttermilk in the raw. I like it in my pancakes or buckwheat cakes. I like it in my biscuits or as a dressing in my slaw...but I don't want a big icy glass of buttermilk with chunks of bread floating in it so you had to eat it with a spoon. No ma'am, I want to cook with it. Anyway, it's the Southern cook that gets the blame for high cholesterol and hardened arteries, for the most part. What made my grandmother's (we called her Mammy) biscuits so doggoned good, you ask? You didn't ask? Well I'm sure you intended to, so here's the answer. It was the lard. It was the soft wheat self rising flour. It was the buttermilk. And it was her hands. She always told me that I overworked the dough, that you just wanted to work it till it held together nicely when you "petted" it into a round. The imprint of her knuckles would always be in that finished product. I can't remember a time when we were children that she wasn't up with the roosters, making a pan of biscuits, frying sidemeat (fat back or streak a lean) a pot of grits on the back of the stove and those wonderful scrambled eggs, soft white swirls of eggwhite like marbling throughout them. My sister Toni was the only one I know of that managed to learn her method of scrambling eggs. Now, here we are coming onto the New Year and we have a custom. We eat Hoppin' John and Collard Greens...Hopping John is simply black eyed peas cooked till they're nicely soft and served over a big fluffy bed of rice, pot likker and all. (Pot likker is the water your food is cooking in.) Some folk like to serve a healthy dollop of chopped onions on top, too. I used to ask Mammy why they called it Hoppin' John and the only answer I ever got was because someone had kicked John in the shin. That was her way of saying she didn't have a clue. I have read about eight or nine theories as to how it got the name, but so far no one really seems to know. If you go by one of the many that Hoppin' John is a Louisiana Patois, an odd adaptation of the Creole French "pois pigeons" or 'pigeon peas', pronounced pwah peeJON. I suppose its not too far from that to "hoppin' John" ...I guess you'd say that where Hoppin' John got it's name is still a mystery. Then there are Collard greens. They're much like cabbage, but not at all like cabbage. They're similar to turnips, but very dissimilar to mustard greens. They have body to them. They are really the only green leafy vegetable I know that requires chewing. And the heads aren't ready to pull till it's had one good frost on it. Freezing sweetens them. Now, the reason we especially eat them on New Years day is for wealth and prosperity. The tradition being that if you eat the Hoppin' john you'll have plenty of coins pass through your fingers, and if you eat collards you'll have folding money in your pocket all the time. It's a wonderful tradition in that if you have Hoppin' John and Collards on your table, you're richer than an awful lot of people who have nothing on their table. And so, once again we will be rich this year. The collards are in the freezer and a bag of dried black eyed peas is always in my cupboard. You never know when a little wealth will come in handy.

23 comments:

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

I miss Grandma's biscuits...and her tomato gravy. YUM-mee!

I remember the year I lived up in New York and Sherri sent me a "care package" after Christmas. She got confused on the black-eyed pea tradition and sent me a bag of large limas instead. ha! I thought she'd lost her mind until she told me she'd sent them "for luck" (and then I KNEW she'd lost it. lol).

Hope ya'lls Christmas was wonderful!!! Talk to you soon -
Love,
Sissy

Jenn and Jacqui said...

Hi Sandi, what fabulous food! All of these dishes are so interesting, it's just facinating to read what they are all about!! Southern food sounds great to us :) Happy New Year Sandi! Jenn and Jacqui

Terri said...

I am a southerner who no longer can live in the south...One reason is that I can't make a biscut to save my life. Another is that I really don't like black-eyed peas and collards...It's very sad really, but there you have it. My mother was a Yankee...Do you suppose it could be genetic?????
Happy New Year anyway!
God bless.
Terri

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

What a great post Sandi. My sister who lives in N.C. brought fresh collard greens for our Christmas meal and there was enough left over for New Year's Day dinner. I also will be making hoppin' John, B.B.Q., sweet potato pudding and Farmer's potatoes. And yep, it's too bad but lard makes crust and biscuits sooooo good. I wish I was half the cook my Southern Mom is. ~ Lynn P.S. Stay tuned...I will be posting my "big" plans for New Year's soon. :)

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I'm passing on this "Southern Cooking," but I'll take your word for it that it is simply delish. I never have used milk for biscuits preferring the flakiness and lightness that can be achieved with just water...not to mention lower calories. Ha!

Thank you for your kind comments. I've dealt with a good many challenges through the years, but nothing over the holidays...makes it an entirely different ballgame.

Happy New Year!

justabeachkat said...

Oh Girl...this post has not only made me start drooling, but making me miss my grandmother so much. No to mention making me hungry! My Granny could make the best biscuits EVER. I remember sitting on a stool and watching her hands and they made them in her wooden biscuit making bowl. There's a art to it, no doubt about it. I remember her using her knuckles on the top too. Oh my! Then buttering them on right after they came out of the oven. (Drooling here!) I'm a true southern girl...love my greens...all kinds, especially collards and turnips. Give me a sweet potato too. And some raw onion. Black eyed peas. Cornbread. Sliced tomatoes. Gotta go. I need a towel. My keyboard is wet.

Hugs!
Kat
(we'll be having our hoppin' jack and collards on New Year's Day too)

Jenn and Jacqui said...

Hi Sandi, us again, just to say have sent that link to you just now, hope it does not take days to get to you! And love your pic on the sidebar, you beautiful thing you!! Jenn and Jacqui

Brenda said...

Girl Im gonna come eat with you.. I will make the biscuits.may not be like your mammys,but I can do it. Do you have a dough bowl and what did she make hers in? I love buttermilk and way you serve it. Have you been the Cracker Barrel and ate their pancakes?They are like buttermilk or sourdough..i love them. okay im hungry thatnks to you hehe.

Hope said...

Hi Sandi,

I just came over from Brenda's place. I read your comment on there and was intrigued!! I had a Mammy and Pappy so that caught my eye. I had to come and read about your food too. I'm in VA right on the TN border. I know about black-eyed peas and collard greens but we never call the peas Hoppin John. I love buttermilk with cornbread too!! lol

Nice to meet you. Now I have to go read all the rest of your posts and archives. The more people I meet on here, the more time I spend here instead of doing things I need to do around the house!! It's kind of a "catch 22" huh?

Come see me sometime,
Hope

Adla said...

Sandi dear,
sorry for the dissapearing act, the hubby is on chrissy come new year leave soooo you know that leaves me with time good enough to bully him to get things done around here! Like spring clean in the middle of summer.I have to supervise so that has taken my computer time :) Well why do all the johns get names for food. Have you ever heard of something called roti john! google that one out. I hope you have a great NEW YEAR filled with more southern dishes to savour :)
cheers to 2008!
xoxo :) Adla ( the girl wlo lives south of the river) just had to add that one in .

NeereAnDear said...

Does anyone ever cook better than our Grandmas and moms? Heck no... they had a way didnt they.... back then lard or any food wasnt full of preservitives and all those chemicals... it was good wholesome... from the earth food....

Being Italian my mom never made hoppin John but I tell you what... I am game for anything... and I do like black eyed peas so I may just have to try some this New Year.....

Thank you for the New Year wishes and I hope that yours is wonderful and prosperous and full of joy !!

HUGS

JO

smilnsigh said...

Hi and thank you for stopping by my blog, from Vee's! And especially, for leaving a comment. 'Cause without comments, we don't meet new people, do we?

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Mari-Nanci

Lib said...

Hi Sandi,
I found you over a HOpe's (2nd time around)
I do think we must of shared the same Mammy and Pappy.lol
I enjoyed reading your post.
A great Blog you have here.
Blessins', Lib

joan said...

Thanks Sandi. Now I have heard of black eye peas but have never had them so one of these days I'll have to try it. I remember my Grandma cooking with lard also and we never thought of things like arteries clogging etc... and she lived until she was 97 years old. It makes you wonder sometimes, huh? Hope you have a wonderful New Years!

Terri and Bob said...

An amazing post. Our family celebrates the black eyed pea thing and breaded tomatoes. I think my grammy started the tomato thing herself. Happy new year!

Liz said...

Yes, memories are so good, I so remember my Nana's plum sauce.
Ah -cholesterol, many New Zealander's suffer from high cholesterol level, far too much of the good living!
Happy New Year -I am still recovering from Christmas
Hugs from N.Z.
Liz

Susie Q said...

Oh what sweet, deliciously sweet memories! I had family both above and below the Mason-Dixon line so I ate from both traditions...Northern and Southern.
Oh does Bill love collard greens and black eyed peas. Gotta have some pork...ummm...can I come over to your place? I KNOW you are a waaaay better cook than I am. As My Yankee born Mom will tell ya, Southern cooks just cook everything better!
My biscuits could never hold a candle to yours. In fact, mine are probably so hard that no candle would ever fit into it so it COULD it. *grin*

Happy, happy new year dear Sandi. You have been a blessing to me.

Love and hugs,
Sue

Tammy said...

'K, now I'm craving a biscuit! All's I have is the frozen kind and they sure won't measure up to your Mammy's I'm sure but maybe they'll hit the spot...lol!

My menu for New Years is black eyes, cabbage and corn bread with a spiral ham on the side *wink*

I've opened a new blog for the new year and will be emailing you an invite.

I've missed you!

Love & Hugs!!

Sandi McBride said...

I'm so thankful for all my friends who stopped by and Sissy, I can make you tomato gravy whenever you want...Jenn and Jacqui, it's an open invite...my door is always open...Terri, when you're born in the South, you're always home, no matter where you are...Lynn lucky Lynn...fresh collards from the garden...Vee my pal, don't knock it til you've tried it! Miss Beachkat, we do have trouble with our keyboards when we talk about good eatin' don't we? Brenda, you don't even need to bring a knife and fork, I've got it covered. Hope, Mari-Nanci and Lib, welcome to my world...and don't be strangers...SusieQ and Joan, you're good pals, so come on and pull up a chair...we'll have a good chin wag...Jo, so good to see you and yes no one cooks like our Grannies...Adla (Miss Aussie) and Lib (Miss New Zealand) come on, the planes about leave without you! And Tammy, welcome back to blogland...we've missed you too!

Jenn and Jacqui said...

Awwwww Sandi, right back at ya! Huge hugs hon and keep well :) J & J xo

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

We've got our peas and ham hock ready to go. I'll put them on in the morning with a big pot of greens.
We'll be lucky and wealthy! ~I somtimes wonder why it didn't happen last year. Or maybe it did and we just don't appreciate it.

Happy New Year Y'all

PAT said...

Of course it was lard and a light hand! I didn't inherit it (the light hand), but it skipped a couple of generations, to my oldest daughter, who was gifted with the skill from her grandma and my granny, thank goodness!

I am not making blackeyed peas for tomorrow...haven't in awhile. I asked J if we should do that this year, just for a little extra luck! We're having speckled butter beans...I know....it's not the same. O' well....

Happy New Year!
Pat

Kari & Kijsa said...

We just wanted to stop by and give you the warmest wishes of the season! Hope you have a wonderful and prosperous 2008!

smiles, kari and kijsa