Monday, January 10, 2005

Hoppin' John

In the Southern U.S., it's tradition to eat Hoppin' John to bring good luck and lots of money for the New Year! Yaacov and I were sick last week, so I just got around to making this dish yesterday. Last year, I made it too and invited our neighbors Ingra and Ron over to share in our good luck. I'm not sure that it turned out as well as it should have last year. I think that Yaacov developed some taste aversion to it. He was really not excited about me making it this year! He said that it was like medicine...he didn't want to eat it, but he would because he knew it was good for him!

What's Hoppin' John? Well, it's black-eyed peas served over rice with a green vegetable on the side. In the South we usually serve collard greens or turnip greens...yum! The black-eyed peas are supposed to represent coins and the green vegetables represent dollar bills (Is the money in the U.S. still green?!). The rice is supposed to bring abundance in the New Year.

Well, you HAVE to make the black-eyes peas with some kind of pork. I'm talking about simmering the beans with bacon or a ham bone. This is not a problem in N.C., the pork capital of the universe. But in Jerusalem, it's a challenge. Both religious Jews and Muslims do not eat pork. Believe it or not, I found a supermarket that sells pork in the heart of Jerusalem! It's not your regular Piggly Wiggly. It's a Russian market. I found it through the advice of a friend. It's tucked away on Agrippas St in the pedestrian mall. Well, there were about 15 people working in this little market and about two shoppers the afternoon that I stopped in. All of the prices and signs are in Russian and a few are in Hebrew. I looked around and finally saw the Holy Grail-a big hunk of bacon ready to be sliced. I got the whole thing sliced. The lady that sliced it for me put the slices on the scale, but didn't put the "heel" of the meat on until after she took it off the scale. That was friendly and nice. It was a little difficult to communicate because the folks there only spoke Russian and Hebrew...two languages that are stumping me at the moment. I left the market in a very good mood...I came, I saw, I got my bacon and headed home. (I think that trying to ask for a ham bone would just be pushing it!)

The Hoppin' John turned out great this year. Here's what I did: I cooked a slice of bacon and a piece of the "heel" in my new Le Creuset pot Yaacov got me for Christmas. The I added chopped onion and garlic and sauteed them in the bacon fat. When the onions were clear, I let the pot cool a little and added the beans that had been soaking overnight. I added some chopped carrots and celery and simmered the whole thing for about two hours. I combined a little advice from my grandmother with a little advice from Bill Smith at Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill.

Instead of collard or turnip greens, this year we had spinach. The spinach I bought doesn't look or taste like spinach I had in the U.S. This spinach had broad, fuzzy leaves. But chopped up and sauteed with a lot of garlic, it tasted great.

Yaacov and I invited our friend Demetri to share in our New Year meal. We all cleaned our plates. I've still got lots of beans left though...just in case we're not feeling lucky.

The next cooking challenges: corn bread, broccoli casserole, and buttermilk biscuits.


At 1/10/2006 5:49 AM, Anonymous jaime said...

I know you that many Israelies don't keep strict kosher, but the pork thing just really bothers me. Sorta like dangling the forbidden fruit. I just wrote about how much I love collards and my greens with bacon and/or fatback in it, but we are trying to transition to keeping kosher and it's soooo hard. It's just so flavorful, but I know there are plenty of flavorful vegetarian dishes out there too. Perhaps, it's something that y'all may consider and pass up on the pork. Maybe???

At 1/10/2006 5:54 AM, Anonymous jaime said...

Oops, sorry for the typos. And also, don't mean to preach and I am not even suggesting keeping kosher, but eating pork over there, just something wrong with it. Though, I do have to admit,when my father and I made aliyah there in the 80's, my father sought out and did find a butcher that sold it. Boy was he in heaven.

At 1/11/2006 7:22 PM, Blogger John said...

Hey there Jamie - I'm not Jewish.

I've given up Bojangles to live over here with my partner (along with a lot of other fabulous things about the US of A). That's enough. So, I am not going to give up bacon. No way.

I do try to keep the windows closed when I cook bacon so that I won't tempt any of my neighbors from their kosher paths.

At 1/13/2006 7:29 AM, Anonymous jaime said...

John, I know you are not Jewish, and of course, you shouldn't give it up. But it was how you describe inviting your friends to come and try your dish, that just seemed to bother me. Call me a hyprocrite, but I am just a little sensitive when it comes to my expectations in Israel. I wouldn't even think twice about it if the same scene was here in the states.

Hope I didn't offend you.

Btw, I do get a kick out of your blog and your Israeli experiences and I have to confess, I am SOOO ENVIOUS of the neighborhood you live in. It's my favorite in Jerusalem.

Keep well,

At 1/13/2006 11:02 PM, Blogger John said...

Hi Jamie, No I wasn't offended. I am glad that you feel comfortable to share your views here and they're very welcome! I am glad that you enjoy the blog too! :-)

People feel and react to different kinds of social pressures. I was just talking to a new friend yesterday about how Jews in the South would never mow their grass on Sunday!


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