Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year. Rice for riches and peas for peace. - Southern saying on eating a dish of Hoppin' John on New Year's Day. Hoppin' John History Hoppin' John is found in most states of the South, but it is mainly associated with the Carolinas. Gullah or Low Country cuisine reflects the cooking of the Carolinas, especially the Sea islands (a cluster of islands stretching along the coats of south Carolina and northern Georgia). Black-eyed peas, also called cow peas, are thought to have been introduced to America by African slaves who worked the rice plantations. Hoppin' John is a rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausages, ham hocks, or fat pork, rice, and tomato sauce. This African-American dish is traditionally a high point of New Year's Day, when a shiny dime is often buried among the black-eyed peas before serving. whoever get the coin in his or her portion is assured good luck throughout the year. For maximum good luck in the new year, the first thing that should be eaten on New year's Day is Hoppin' John. At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, many southern families toast each other with Champagne and a bowl of Hoppin' John. If it is served with collard greens you might, or might not, get rich during the coming year. There are many variations to traditional Hoppin' John. Some cook the peas and rice in one pot, while others insist on simmering them separately. Most food historians generally agree that "Hopping John" is an American dish with African/French/Caribbean roots. There are many tales or legends that explain how Hoppin' John got its name: It was the custom for children to gather in the dining room as the dish was brought forth and h op around the table before sitting down to eat. A man named John came "a-hoppin" when his wife took the dish from the stove. An obscure South Carolina custom was inviting a guest to eat by saying, "Hop in, John" The dish goes back at least as far as 1841, when, according to tradition, it was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled black man who was know as Hoppin' John. - - - - - Hoppin' John Recipe 2 cups dried black-eyed peas Cold water 1 pound lean slab bacon or 1 pound meaty ham hocks 1 large onion, chopped 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 4 cups water or chicken broth 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice Salt and black pepper to taste Before preparing dried beans, sort through them thoroughly for tiny pebbles or other debris. Soak, rinse, and drain dried black-eyed peas. Place black-eyed peas in a large soup pot over medium-high heat and cover with cold water; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 to 2 hours. Drain and rinse beans. Using the same large soup pot, over medium-high heat, add soaked black-eyed peas, bacon or ham hock, onion, and red pepper. Add water or chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the peas are tender (do not boil as the beans will burst). Remove bacon or ham hock and cut into bite-size pieces. Return meat to pot. Stir in rice, cover, and cook 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 8 servings.