Like my darling Pinta, I can have a hard time pronouncing things, or in my case, writing them, as a friend of mine, the Charleston-born writer Jack Hitt, pointed out about the New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Peas post.
I got myself into trouble, apparently, with my suggestion that it had anything to do with another famous Southern dish of a certain name. “I think it's safe to say that the phrase has always been rendered, without affectation, as 'Hoppin' John.'" Hitt told me. "To even say the ‘g’ is to sound like someone referring to chitlins as chitterlings.”
“I'm pretty sure the first mention of Hoppin' John is was in a Carolina cookbook,” he continued, “and around Charleston anyway, the story, according to various sources on the Internet, is that “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."
“I've cooked these things all my life, and the key feature is to cook the peas (typically field peas, by the way, not black-eyed peas) and then reserve the 'pea likker' to cook the rice in,” he said. “Most people cook the rice right in with the beans, but I have always found it easier to cook the rice in several cups of salty pea ‘likker’ and then fold the cooked beans back in.” He also prefers white long-grain rice to brown. And, he says, the rice and beans and collards should be presented together at the end.
“What your writer's talking about is just cooking typical Cajun, spicy black-eyed peas,” he summed up, “and I suspect anyone who's ever made Hoppin' John will react with cries of heresy and calls for blood.”
That hasn’t happened yet, but one reader did wonder if the he should use smoked or fresh ham hocks in the recipe. The answer is smoked—I’ve amended the recipe.