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Hoppin’ John for a Happy New Year

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Good morning. Hoppin’ John (above) is a dish of the South Carolina low country, peas and rice cooked together and often served on New Year’s Day as a wish for a prosperous, lucky future. (The peas are meant to represent coins. Some cooks throw a dime into the pot or place the coin under one of the bowls on the table.)

But as Toni Tipton-Martin wrote in her brilliant 2019 cookbook, “Jubilee: Two Centuries of African American Cooking,” there are many who eat Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Eve instead, as part of a Watch Night service in which the Christian faithful come together to usher in the new year. The ceremony dates back to “Freedom’s Eve” on Dec. 31, 1862, when enslaved Africans gathered in Southern churches to hear the news that the Emancipation Proclamation had set them free.

Tipton-Martin’s recipe for Hoppin’ John isn’t quite that old. She adapted it from one she discovered in “Aunt Julia’s Cook Book,” a collection of recipes from the coastal South published in the 1930s by the Standard Oil Company. (“For happy eating, use these recipes,” a line on the cover reads, “for happy motoring, buy at the Esso sign.”) She uses bacon to flavor the rice, but if you can lay your hands on some smoked hog jowls to use instead, you won’t be sorry.


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Serve with collard greens to represent dollar bills and have yourself a marvelous evening. The combination should have you in bed and snoozing by 10 p.m.

As for the rest of the week. …

If you took another route for New Year’s Eve than Hoppin’ John and an early bedtime, you may today be in need of … assistance. And if the prospect of making a big bowl of menudo is out of the question, I prescribe a meal of my smash burgers, fries from a frozen bag and an ice-cold Coke, ideally Mexican in provenance since the cane sugar’s objectively more delicious than the high-fructose corn syrup used to flavor the American-made. And maybe a few Advil for dessert?

Back to work. Kenji López-Alt’s recipe for moo shu mushrooms is an easy win on a weeknight, served on warm flour tortillas with a dab of hoisin sauce.

Melissa Clark’s recipe for Tuscan kale salad comes together quickly and delivers a great deal of deliciousness, particularly if you follow my lead and toss a handful of dried currants or cranberries in there for a sweet pop and a third texture beyond the greens and croutons.

And then you can head into the first weekend of 2024 with a taste of the past: the baked chicken legs I learned to make from the California chef Cal Peternell about a decade ago. I like them with couscous. You might prefer a baked potato.

Many thousands more recipes are waiting for you at New York Times Cooking. You need a subscription to read them, though. Subscriptions make this whole operation possible. Please, if you haven’t taken one out yet, would you please consider doing so today? Thank you.

Write for help if you run into issues with our technology. We’re at [email protected], and someone will get back to you. Or if you’d like to wish us Auld Lang Syne, I’m at [email protected]. I can’t respond to every letter. But I read every one I receive.

Now, it’s nothing to do with oranges or duck, holiday hams or ground allspice, but I’m moved today not to write about my own cultural recommendations for the week but instead to highlight those of my colleagues on the Culture and Lifestyle desks of The New York Times.

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