Tracy Lee Karner
The Way I Was

Who in the world is Hoppin’ John?

Tracy Lee Karner
A nutritious lunch–hoppin’ john salad, pepper strips, open-faced tomato-mozarella sandwich on hearth-baked muliti-grain bread.

I have no idea what inspired me to throw together a batch of hoppin’ john this morning.

And I don’t know why it’s called that dumb name.

If you want to make this, you’ll need:

  • Black-eyed peas (preferably dried, canned are all right, too);
  • Some fresh vegetables, minced. Choose from: red or green sweet pepper, jalapeno pepper, celery, onion, tomato, garlic, scallions, chives. Any combination of some of them.
  • Dressing: Blend 2/3 cup vinegar + 1/3 cup sugar + 1 teaspoon salt (I did NOT salt the peas while they were cooking, so this is not a huge amount of salt) in a 2 cup pyrex measure. Microwave for 20 seconds or so to dissolve the sugar (or heat in a saucepan on the stove top). Whisk in in 1/3 cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon oregano.

Have you ever looked at a package of dried field pea? They’re cute, all nestled together like one-eyed little baby something-or-others. Maybe that’s why I made hoppin’ john. Maybe I made it because black-eyed peas are incredibly nutritious and I had a couple of fried pickle slices last night and figured I ought to eat something nutritious today, to pacify my body cells who are screaming, “please, please, give us vitamins!” Or maybe it was just because I like the stuff.

The reason I like Hoppin’ John is because I always make it however I like it. I don’t follow a recipe–I just follow my inclinations. And my inclination was for a refreshing chilled salad.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I covered the peas with 4 times as much water as I had peas. It’s because field peas impressively increase in volume when cooked, that some cultures associate them with prosperity. You’ll end up with a LOT more than you started with, so use a large enough pot.
  2. Brought them to a boil, covered them and reduced the heat to simmer and let them perk for an hour or so (more or less, depending on how old and dried out they are). I never presoak them  and no one has ever complained or even noticed.
  3. While they were cooking, I minced up whatever I felt like eating in my salad.  Ask your own tongue–what do you feel like eating? What sounds good to youred or green sweet pepper, jalapeno pepper, celery, onion, tomato, garlic, scallions, chives? Some or all of them?
  4. I listened to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata while I was chopping because it was relaxing and I was in the mood for it. Why not follow your heart? I mean really, why not?
  5. You could add some cooked rice to the mixture, which would make it more traditionally hoppin’ johnny-like, but I didn’t feel like doing that, so I didn’t. I didn’t follow any recipes or rules because sometimes I get to do whatever I want.
  6. I mixed up enough dressing to make the salad very nicely moist–about half as much as the combined total of vegetables and beans. (I had 2 cups of vegetables/cooked beans, so I used 1 cup of dressing).
  7. You could make up a cup of dressing exactly like I did, or you can do your own version. You could use bottled Italian or vinaigrette dressing if you wanted to–preferably something without weird unpronounceable additives.
  8. Taste the dressing and adjust seasonings however you want to. It should taste strong enough to sparkle up the peas which taste somewhere earthy and bland  (oh, yeah, drain the peas, so you won’t end up with pea soup).  Toss everything together. Add some citrus juice or fresh herbs or whatever you are in the mood for. Maybe a crumble of crispy diced bacon? Chill until serving time.

This stores well in the fridge for a few days. But why is it called Hoppin John?

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4 thoughts on “Who in the world is Hoppin’ John?”

  1. Oh how I love hoppin john – it’s so yummy! One of those dishes that just keeps getting better and better the longer it sits. I’m so in the mood for this now!

    1. Tonight it’s red beans & rice–same principle as hoppin’ john, longer simmer, and skip the sugar/vinegar. I cook up a pot of beans or lentils once a week.

      I just saw your sweet potato- lentil soup. It sounds delicious. I’m amazed at how versatile legumes are.

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