For me, part of being “the Witch of this place,” is growing, cooking, and eating the foods of my landbase, watershed, food shed. Like every place, the South has foods that are traditional to each holiday. G/Son comes to my house at Yule and grabs several ham biscuits. “Oh, I like these little sandwiches,” he says. A friend comes back from a Richmond funeral and tells me about fried chicken, bourbon, peanut soup, and spoonbread. On the Fourth of July, we eat watermelon. In months with an R, we warm ourselves with oyster stew. In late Summer/early Fall, my extended family goes to Annapolis and picks crabs on picnic tables covered with brown paper.
And, on New Years’s Day in the South, you eat hoppin john. I make mine the way that my momma, raised in Florida, made it. Peppers, onions, ham, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, and greens. I add garlic, although I don’t think my momma did, and heat, this year from fish peppers. In good years, you add ham and in leaner years, you add a ham hock, or a ham bone, or maybe only the thought of ham. You eat it to have good luck all through the new year. (I think that, for a lot of my ancestors, just being able to scratch together a filling meal months after the last harvest was an indication of good luck. And I eat hoppin john to, in part, honor their survival and their struggle, to take into the cells of my own body the foods that my ancestors ate.)
Click on the Afroculinaria link in my blog roll and read Michael Twitty’s fascinating discussion of the (largely African) history of hoppin john (and the magical symbolism of each ingredient).
May 2015 bring you health, growth, magic, poetry, prosperity, a sense of place, and true friends. This is my will; so mote it be.
The Brits have a wonderful saying about starting as you “mean to go on.” What’s the first thing that you’ll eat in 2015?