This year, we managed to travel back to Chicago in time for me to do a bit of research, grocery shopping, and cooking. It turns out, a traditional hoppin' john is pretty easy to make. One of my favorite things about it is that you are encouraged to 'throw in whatever you have' and more or less customize your recipe. In Southern tradition, the beans symbolize coins and prosperity (they grow when cooked) and greens symbolize folded money. Eating this simple meal on the first day of the year is supposed to bring you wealth throughout the rest of the year. Here are a few more traditional New Year's meals from various parts of the world.
There are definitely more sophisticated and traditional versions of this meal. And yes, you could spend all day cooking your beans. However, my version is a quick and simple (vegetarian) option that takes about an hour to prep.
- Broth (chicken or veggie) (the amount is relational to how much rice you are cooking - use it as a replacement for water and the rice has a much richer flavor. I used 2 cups.)
- Rice (A traditional hoppin' john calls for white rice. I used Uncle Ben's Wild Rice without the seasoning packet.)
- Black eyed peas (I used a 15 oz can)
- Hot sauce
- Anything else you would like to add (I added cabbage since greens are another traditional Southern New Year's food.)
- Cook your rice according to the instructions on the package, substituting the amount of water called for with broth. Throw in garlic.
- In a large pan with a bit of oil, heat your onion and any additional vegetables (like cabbage) until tender.
- Clean and heat your beans. Sprinkle them with salt, sugar and pepper to taste. (surprisingly, the addition of sugar mixed with the salt and pepper gives them a really unique and delicious taste!)
- Mix everything together and either add in hot sauce to taste (If you ask me, I say add a lot!) or serve with hot sauce and let everyone add their own.
I served mine with corn bread, which symbolizes gold. While I'm not a superstitious person, I enjoy the tradition and idea behind this meal (not to mention its tastiness!)
One other tradition I'd like to incorporate next year is eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year's Eve. It's a Spanish tradition and each grape represents one month. For instance, a sour grape foreshadows a sour month and so on. (Better cushion my odds and spend extra time at the store picking out the best bag of grapes!)
What are your favorite New Year's traditions?