Monday, January 07, 2008

happy new year, southern style

When I was a kid, my mom had this cookbook full of heritage-style recipes: sally lunn, muffuletta, hoppin' john. It must have been a gift because my mom wasn't much of a cook and she never made anything from the cookbook--much to my childhood frustration. I loved browsing through that cookbook, reading the stories behind the recipes and imagining what the food would taste like.

Lately, I've found myself slowly remembering all of those foods and finding recipes so I can try them out. Muffuletta last summer for a picnic. And this New Year's, hoppin' john.

Hoppin' John is basically rice and black-eyed peas, cooked with ham and onion. Completely simple but so, so good. It's a traditional New Year's dish in the south--so logical: leftover christmas ham=hoppin' john. I took the ham hock home from my family's Christmas dinner and luckily Gourmet's January issue had all sorts of southern recipes, including hoppin' john. Another good version of the rice and black-eyed peas combo is to get rid of the ham and add coconut milk and a little thyme--no cool name here, just rice and peas. I learned how to make that one from my friend Carmen.

The think I like most about the hoppin' john is that it represents an approach to food, cultural knowledge, that we've lost--the ability to transform one food in multiple ways, to create bridges from one meal to another.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Sarah said...

"...it represents an approach to food, cultural knowledge, that we've lost--the ability to transform one food in multiple ways, to create bridges from one meal to another."

Do you really think that food as cultural heritage and the knowledge of ways to recast meals is that endangered? Maybe people don't cook from their cultural background every day any more, and for lots of us, bridging from one meal to another means using Sunday's roast chicken in Monday's enchiladas as a time-saving strategy--but I don't think we're really losing our connection to food!

9:45 AM  
Blogger lis said...

yes, I do think it's endangered. maybe not for you and me because we cook all the time, but for many people--yes, absolutely.

A silly example: I watched Purple Rain over Christmas Break. There was a scene in Prince's basement where he starts smashing things up in a fit of anger. Among the things he smashes up are a bunch of bottles of preserved foods. You would never see this in a movie now, unless it was a key part of the plot.

What do others think?

11:46 AM  
Blogger climbwill said...

Not only that the canning was in the movie, but back then the intention of showing the canning was to imply that Prince's family was working class...

11:51 AM  

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