Last year, my friend Anita hosted an open house New Year’s Day party where her daughter, also a good friend of mine, made a big pot of Hoppin’ John, a simple black-eyed pea stew made with bacon, rice and banana peppers. Black eyed peas are said to bring upon good luck in the New Year.
This was new to me, but from here out I think I’m going to make it a tradition: 2016 has been a great year for me. I know it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for a lot of people and I am the first one to agree: there is a lot of scary shit happening in the world. Pain is local though and I find myself practicing gratitude regularly — not just saying I’m grateful for what I have, but actually feeling it and believing it.
Of course, I don’t owe it all to the Hoppin’ John.
At the beginning of 2015 I was stuck in a big fat rut — unhappy running an all-consuming PR business, struggling financially, and overall feeling kind of lonely. My friend Kelley told me, as cliche as it is, that “life is a roller coaster, and sometimes you’re at the top and other times you’re at the bottom.” I rang in 2015 closer to the bottom to the top, and I felt like I was watching everyone around me move forward in their lives: careers, relationships, travels. I felt like I was constantly taking one step forward and two steps back.
Sometimes good fortune comes from luck and sometimes, you make your own luck. In early 2015, I interviewed for a position that sounded like my dream job and started in my new role in March of that year. A month later, I adopted a rescue dog and in July, found a great therapist. In October, I met Brad and after a year of dating, we moved in together in a neighborhood we love (as a bonus, our apartment is way more affordable than where I lived previously, so I’ve been able to make some financial headway, too).
In 2016, I ran two half-marathons, spent countless weekends with my wonderful and supportive friends, and moved in with a guy I am crazy about who is currently on our back porch building us a custom headboard. He might not realize it, but he makes mundane feel special and fun — shopping for furniture, sushi on a Tuesday night, taking Henry for the long loop around the block on Saturday morning and grabbing coffee before hitting the dog park (which I know he secretly doesn’t want to do).
In 2016 I’ve also been able to work toward some of my financial goals, founded an auxiliary board for a local non-profit that does amazing work in the community and rediscovered my love of cooking and writing about it, something that Brad has always supported in more ways that one, the most obvious being a reliable taste tester, and helping me evaluate whether our dinner was “blog-worthy.” I’ve also made a great deal of professional growth and met some amazing and inspiring people.
Sometimes I struggle with what to write here about my personal life: when things are bad, I don’t want to air my dirty laundry. Since I started this blog in 2008 there have been a lot of bumps in my proverbial road that you as my readers could probably relate to: professional woes, friendship troubles, dating woes, financial hurdles and all of the mundane things that make life harder to navigate. There’s also the fear of how people will perceive you: what if a client or potential employer was to see it and think I’m weak, or irresponsible?
On the flip side, I also hesitate to share the good. What if taking time to verbalize or appreciate my good fortune jinxes me and the bottom drops out? What if I say out loud, “I’m happy” only to get hit by a bus tomorrow? I know that rationally, the odds there are slim, but because there are dips in the roller coaster, that makes it even more important to appreciate when the going is good. It’s easier said than done, so I’m hoping I can will myself to be more open and honest here.
Starting with the good things though, because I’m determined to start 2017 on a high note as I started 2016. So, we’ll be starting the year with Hoppin’ John.
There are a lot of recipes online, but I really liked my friend Amanda’s. It was passed onto her by cousins who live in Kentucky, so it’s a good authentic Southern version of the dish often referred to as “Carolina Peas and Rice.” It’s usually served with collared greens, and is said to bring upon good luck in the New Year. I know I’m going to keep working on creating my own good fortune, but a little luck can’t hurt either.
- 1 pound of bacon, diced
- 1 16-ounce jar of mild banana peppers (with juice), chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ pound dried black-eyed peas, cooked (about 2 cups) or 2 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups cooked long-grain rice
- Cook bacon in a medium pot over medium-low heat until the bacon is crispy. Set bacon aside. *If using dried black eyed peas, cook according to package directions. This step may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Place the onion and banana peppers in the same frying pan as the bacon grease and sauté until they begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the black eyed peas, Worcestershire sauce and dried herbs. Stir to combine and cook another 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in 2 cups of cooked minute rice and the cooked bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or transfer to a crock pot and keep warm on the lowest heat setting until serving.
Hoppin’ John Rice Skillet from Diethood
Spicy Hoppin’ John Salad from Budget Bytes
Hoppin’ John Over Cornmeal Pancakes from Cupcake Project
Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John with Sausage from Weary Chef
Vegan Hoppin’ John by Tori Avey