Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thankful Thursdays

Today I am thankful for lingering light in the sky in the late afternoon.

For the warmth of 10 above.

Today I am thankful for the friends I call my family, and for the support they offer with loving grace.

I am thankful for the love of a husky who reminds me to be here, now, and to play a little everyday.

I am thankful for a blissful smile, for a speaking muscle, and for a deep breath.

I am thankful I for my home. 

And today, I am thankful for our brilliant sparkly unsustainable epoch of civilization that allows me to travel thousands of miles through the air and land in the arms of loved ones on a tropical island.  We're off to visit the inlaws in Hawaii tomorrow, and I plan to eat oh so very many mangoes and papayas and visit the farmers market and an ashram.  I may write in this space from the islands, but if I don't I send you all a loving thought and so much aloha.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pretties and more pretties

Hawaiin Shell dangle earrings
 Sometimes it is really really nice to have a sister who is not only a fabulous chef, but who is incredibly talented with making things.  Especially things out of silver and shell.  Or, you know stone and glass.  To listen to her talk about the zen of cutting silver with tiny saw is like listening to me speak of the silent slow joy of weaving. 

You may know that it was both the midwinter gifting celebrations and my birthday recently, and she gave me some beautiful things:  a set of 3 pair of earrings made with beach combed hawaiian shell bits she found last winter, and a pair of earrings made to replace a pair I loved (and lost a single one of the pair) which I had bought a few years ago at an art boutique. 

Hawaiin Shell earrings
 Can you guess what I've been wearing dangling from my ears all week? 

Glass copy cat earrings. 

These are some of the things she's made of late
for me, for my mom, and for herself.
I bet she'd do commision work.  You can find her on facebook!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for my bones and breath.  I am thankful for the love I can give and the space I can hold. 

I am thankful for the love and support of a man who is beautiful inside and out. 

I am thankful for the studios I inhabit. 

I am thankful for caribou, for a huntress, and for a new crockpot. 

Brie goes well with everything! A wine and cheese birthday.

Brie goes well with everything! A wine and cheese birthday.

"A plethora of cheeses and wine has never yet been brought together in such a lovely home with such wonderful people.  Compliments to the hostess and a monopoly of thanks to her for bringing her daughter back into this world in such a lovely form 27 years ago," wrote my Darlin'Man.  It was my birthday the other week, and to celebrate the day, my mom put together an absolutely divine wine and cheese pairing feast.  In addition to the wine and cheese, we had bread, almonds, raspberries, strawberries, artichoke hearts and a gorgeous salad my sister made.  It is recommended that if you do not have access to a great sommelier and fromagier, that you keep a notebook with comments and thoughts on pairings so that you can gain skill in pairings.  In support of such an endeavor, I asked everyone to take notes, I will share some of their thoughts below.  One of my guests, the brother of my dearest friend, who also happens to be a playwright, had insightful prose poems for many of his comments.  His words will be in italics through out this post, you can read more of his thoughts and writing at Everyone else will be in quotations.

For the main course, we had some 8 cheeses with 6 wines. 

Gran Maestre Manchego: matured soft cheese, aged 12 months, product of Spain: brash, endearing
Havartislick, The action scenes of Indiana Jone's desert.
Grand Cru Original Gruyere, aged 4 months: an award-inning alpine-style classic.  Fresh Wisconsin milk creates light, floral notes with a mellow finishstinky full.  It was indeed a beautifully stinky cheese, and might have been my favorite, but I'm not so certain about the light floral notes!
A Dutch Masterpeice Rembrandt Extra-aged Gouda- perfect crisp on edge of crunchy.  Intelligently sharp.  Divine.
Smoked Cheddar : not cheese but memory, condensed warm rich campfire love.
Montchevre Chevre: Hating chevre is like hating yourself.  Why bother?
Le Chatelain Brie: Brie fills in the silence when I pray.

Glenmorangie: like a late summer forest meadow: exhilarating, intoxicating, I must leave too soon.  Smoky caramel love
Red Garage Merlot: fruity nose, mild taste.  After that scotch everything is mild.  Not far from the grave.  A micro-vintage from the San Francisco area. 
Chateau St. MichelleGewurtztraminer: Sweet sour full, leaving the party with and kissing someone new
Macon Villages Chardonnay: White wine like crustless sandwiches.
Sauv-BlancWhite wines like young people intoxicate, are dull.  That said, I quite liked all three of the whites, which is surprising, as I am generally a red wine gal.
J. Lohr Cabernet: Cranberry verging on currant.  Sturdy, drily sweet.  I cannot separate becomig adult from learning the meaning of "dry"

The manchego might have been the overall favorite, with Maple and Me being fans of the Havarit Meunster, and my very fave being the Gouda.

Jasmine: Syrah and Gruyere complexifies the stinky cheese flavors.
Brie and Syrah deepens the brie (dad says "nice clean flavors" about this one)
Gouda and Syrah, omg.

Jesse: oh my god good gouda! With Cabernet-Sauvignon,  yes, but gouda outshined a little.

Justin: j lohr cab and havarti munsteur – perfect

Mark: sauv blanc and gruyere makes stinky cheese stinkier.

Anna: Chardonnay and Chevre!

"What are we doing here?"
"I don't know."
"Do you want some more cheese and wine?"
-Hipsters at a wine and cheese birthday

For dessert we had three "fabulously accurate combinations" of wine with cheese.

White Stilton with sweetened dried blueberries: Blueberry Fayre/Port; what cheesecake tastes like to poor people.  Cheese creamy, tart, satisfying, port splendid. " Triple combo of blue cheese, walnuts, and port is heavenly" said my father, and it is true.  There is a magical alchemy that happens in the mouth with this combination.  It was probably my absolute favorite of the entire night, and made me forget all about the concept of a birthday cake.  Who would ever want cake with this in front of them?

Gruyere/Madiera: frost on windowpanes.  Strong. Cruel. The morning ahead.  Beautiful, old.   I thought I was going to like this a lot, because I LOVED the Gruyere, and have been fantasizing about madiera ever since I first delved into Shakespeare in 8th grade.  Turns out though, I do not like madiera.  Fortunately my father does, so I'll be keeping this rest of this bottle behind our other liqueurs until his next visit.

Geweurtztraminer/ Yancey's Fancy: New York's Artisan Cheese:  Bergenost, a buttery triple cream havarti/muenster style cheesesafe soft parmesean.  a cheese to give strangers you want to be friends.  a cheese that reminds you of undone chores. pair with sweet white and serve sparingly.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homestead Eating: Honey and Caribou

Last week, I stopped by the local spirit-selling store to pick up a beer to drink with the Heart Stew.  Anyone reading that post the entire way through will know that I chose Stone's Arrogant Bastard.  Well, as I browsing the craft beer section, I found my self suddenly distracted by bottles of artisan hard ciders.  On a total whim I bought a 22 oz. bottle of each of the two varieties.  And decided I would cook a meal with which to drink each of them. 

Crispin ® Natural hard apple cider : Honey Crisp was this evening's beverage of choice.  (I have not in fact, received or been promised anything by Cripsin.  I just really liked the cider, and the meal I made, so I'm writing about it.)  The side of the bottle reads "Naturally fermented using a premium blend of unpasteurized fresh-pressed apple juice, not from concentrate, with no added malt, spirit or grape alcohols.  Experience an earthy, fruity bouquet with an authentic cidery aroma and hints of honey.  A yeasty, full-bodied flavor, creamy mouth-feel with a crisp finish and unusual complexity.  Honey Crisp Artisanal Reserve, unfiltered cloudy hard cider, uses racked apple-wine smoothed with pure organic honey, with no added sugar, colorants, sorbate or benzoate preservatives."  You can see why I was intrigued. 

As I was turning over in my mind what meal would do this cider justice, I happened to be talking about food with my sister.  This is a common subject of conversation between the two of us.  She suggested Honey-glazed caribou.  And my eyes went wide with the brilliance of the thought.  She amazes me from time to time, this sister of mine.  She is a devout vegetarian, but has worked in –and run – commercial kitchens where she not only cooked but also developed recipes for meat dishes.  She comes up with brilliant concepts like the proscuitto wrapped medjool dates of Thanksgiving fame, and makes them.  But she doesn't eat them.  And still the brilliance of what she does with flavors that she only smells constantly amazes me. 

And so dinner tonight was Honey-glazed Caribou with Honey Crisp Hard Cider.  And oh my word.  I'm not entirely sure how long it would have taken me to come up with the idea of cooking caribou with honey, but let me tell you, it would have been far too long.  I didn’t use any other spices or flavorings on the caribou, just cooked it with honey from my mother's bees this summer past (or perhaps the one before?).  And it was beyond words, mellow and savory, sweet and wholesome.  Eaten in the same bite with baked potato in salt and pepper and butter; the sweetness and the salt and the pepper bloomed on the tongue.  That delicious gaminess of the caribou was tempered by the flavor of the honey, and kept if from feeling like dessert.  I served it with cabbage sautéed in butter and baked potatoes.  It would have been an entirely Alaskan food meal if not for the sweet potatoes I also cooked to add color to our plates and diets.  The cider was lovely, dry and crisp.  The honey flavors picked up on each other and made glory on the tastebuds, but I think the caribou would have appreciated something a little deeper flavored, and perhaps not quite as dry.  The Darlin'Man says we ought to try it with mead next time.  I am sure there will be a next time.


Take one frozen caribou roast.  It is frozen because you mistakenly thawed ground caribou earlier in the day.  You are determined to use a roast, however, so set aside the ground meat for use in a day or two.

In a cast iron skillet on low heat, whisk together about 2 tablespoons of really good honey, with a generous splash of olive oil and enough water to about 1/3 fill the skillet.

Set the frozen roast in the skillet and let it begin to thaw as the oven below bakes potaoes. 

Turn on the heat under the skillet far before the roast is fully thawed.  Put a large lid over roast.  Ocassionally check it with a fork and flip it over until it is thawed through, cooked on the outside and bleeds when you stick it.  Remove roast to a cutting board.  Pour pan drippings into dog bowl to mix with kibble.

Silce roast in an attempt at crossgrain into maybe ½ inch slices?  Pour some olive oil into the bottom of the same skillet and lay the caribou slices in the oil.  Put a small dollop of really good honey on the upper face of each slice of roast.  I don't know how much I used, perhaps ½ teaspoon each?  Perhaps a teaspoon. 

Turn on the heat to sear the bottoms of the slices as the honey begins to melt.  Turn the slices over.  In a moment or two, the honey and oil will have become a delicious goo mixing with the caribou juices in the bottom of the pan.  Turn the slices over a few times, shaking the skillet as though you are a chef on a cooking show to coat them in the glaze. 

Remove slices to plates, and replace skillet with glaze over high heat, to reduce.  Pour glaze over meat and serve with honey cider, potatoes, and greens.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Extra Day

In remembrance of a great leader who continues to inspire us decades after his untimely death, I had the day off of work yesterday as a paid holiday.  These extra days feel like a whole extra weekend, a gift from the universe to use to work towards the life I strive to live.  Weeknights offer so little time for anything more than my yoga practice and a meal with my man, that weekends become the time that I craft my life.  This weekend I had the beautiful opportunity of a Yin Yoga workshop with an awesome teacher up from Florida, so the extra day gave me an entire day at home I would not have otherwise had. 

By some miracle, I managed to marry a man who not only hauls wood and shovels snow, but spent an hour or two on Saturday vacuuming the (very dirty) floor.  So I began the day with a semblance of a clean house!  A true gift, that. We have moved our bedroom downstairs into the small room across from the bathroom that will one day house a young one.  This is in part to conserve heat, by putting the entirety of our living space near the plumbing pipes and blocking off the rest of the house with curtains.  And it is partially to allow us to lay down a floor and build walls – and a closet! – in the upstairs where our room will be.  Last weekend I mostly moved us into our new room, and today I put away (some of) my clothes into their new homes. 

I drank coffee and wrote letters to dear ones across the country and across the globe in font of a view of a beautiful pink and sliver sky behind the birches.

I made stock out of a ham bone from friends.  The local meat market has not had soup bones the last few time I went, and we have been forlornly out of stock at home as a result.  I love cooking with bone stocks, both for the taste and the nutrition.  We try to eat only organic and/or local meat, so bone stocks also stretch the dollars when buying expensive meat.  Of course, hunting and fishing also help!  The Darlin'Man went to a friend's house to watch the game on Sunday, and his wife sent my man home with a hambone.  I wondered exactly how it had come about...  "here, your wife does weird things like make bone broth, do you want our left overs?" or what....  Turns out, she sent it to our dogs as she was going to throw it out!  Well, the pups got scraps Sunday night as I carved off some of the (still relatively lots) of ham from the bone.  This went to the side for a soup.  Then the meaty bone went into a stock pot with a couple of carrots, a couple of onions, some celery, bay leaves, allspice, cloves, and peppercorns.  And it boiled and simmered for probably 30 hours until the stock was a dark rich brown and the entire house smelled of soup.  I froze a few quarts, put a few quarts in the fridge for use this week, and the rest went into the crock pot with potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, some spices, and the ham scraps for tomorrow's dinner.  The over-cooked ham from off the bone and carrots and onions from the stock are waiting for the dogs dinner tomorrow, and the two pieces of bone are in the freezer for some day when two pups will be very very lucky.  I'm not entirely sure what those friends would think of me making multiple meals out of the leftovers they were going to toss and instead gave to our dogs.  But I do know that even a feedlot pig deserves to have as much of its body used and appreciated as possible. 

I started some sprouts on the counter, from seeds my father gave me a very very long time ago and I had yet to get around to using.  It took me far too long a time to figure out that the health food store carried the lids for mason jars for sprouting.  And then it all sat in the pantry.  It will be very nice in a few days to have some truly fresh greens in the dead of winter. 

I made a large batch of chai (without the black tea, so no caffeine) to have in the fridge for drinking this week.  For some reason, I have a resistance to drinking glasses of water that I don't have to drinking tea or juice.  So last week I made a huge batch of raspberry leaf and clover tea, it being that time of the month for me, and the herbs also being good for digestion and as a health tonic for my man.  The herbs last week I gathered myself last summer, but the cinnamon and cloves and cardamom and ginger and coriander were from the grocery store.  Either way it is much cheaper than juice and just as good for you.

And!  I started a batch of sauerkraut in my very own crock.  For my birthday, my mother not only got me an insulated down skirt to wear over my yoga pants to and from class, but she also got me a crock!!!   It was designed by Sandor Katz, the author of "Wild Fermentation," collaborating with a potter.  And its really pretty.  For those of you who have read my earlier attempts at fermentation, you will know that I am skilled at turning saurkraut into mold and beer into vinegar. But recently, I have successfully made fermented cabbage and turnip and rutabega in mason jars using enormously generous amounts of brine.  Both my man and I really enjoy saur-veggies.  And they are a panacea, populating the gut with the flora and fauna that not only promotes healthy digestion, but helps regulate hormones, and affects mood and metabolism and the central nervous system.  The gut is a pretty amazing place.  I digress.  The point is that I started a batch of saurkraut with a mix of red and green cabbage, and I'm really looking forward to sharing the (hopefully) triumphant results with you.

On top of all that, the Darlin'Man did the dishes, and I helped!  Every last dirty dish from the past month and more has been washed!  And while it may not sound like a lot, from a woman who has abhorred doing dishes and foisted them onto housemates and husbands for years, I am proud to announce that I did three sinkfulls!  The last bits that my man had given up on, but which now done, give us a proverbial clean slate, and an actual clean kitchen.  It feels so welcoming and spacious.  My home feels like a welcoming and a productive space, that is not overwhelming me with things to do.  And that is a wonderful way to start the workweek. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Homestead Eating: Heart

Heart is much like I always imagined steak:  flavorful, firm, tender, and not prone to disintegrating after hours in the crockpot.  I grew up an eater of vegetables, with the occasional fish and fowl mixed in, but never red meat.  Family legend has it that my uncle appalled my parents by feeding the maybe-4-year-old-me a bite of his hamburger.  It wasn't until after I moved to Alaska that red meat became a conscious, and beloved, part of my diet.  As a result, I had a fully imagined notion of what steak was; a notion created out of novels mostly.  As my favored reading was medieval-fantasy and historical coming of age novels for the majority of my youth, I developed a decidedly hearty-tavern-stew and frontier meat-and-potatoes image of what exactly red meat is.  And while I've had many a fine steak and roast in the past half decade or so, no beef soup or stew or bourgignon has ever quite lived up to my image of it as an ultimately warm, filling, nourishing, thick, delicious, restorative, so-good-with-a-mug-of-ale beef stew.  Hearty, one might say (pun most certainly intended).  I am sure that the word got much of its sense from the idea of heartening, of giving heart or courage to a person.  The word courage is, after all, derived from the French "coeur" for "heart."  But I imagine centuries of cooks, farm-wives, and inkeeps using a stew to stretch the meat as far as possible, to tenderize the sometimes tough vital muscle, or even to hide the frugal use inner organs behind an idea of steak. 

In the past few weeks, two of my dear friends of the lovely blog Maple and Me went Caribou hunting.  The eponymous Maple, known on this blog as the Woodsman, got one on New Years, and the following weekend he took my dear friend and fellow writer on her first hunt.  She shot a beautiful caribou with much gratitude in her heart for all that it means to take a life to feed one's own; and last night I ate that caribou's heart. 

When Maple shot their first caribou, he brought home the carcass to butcher and a bag with the heart and the lungs in it to use as bait for lynx and marten traps.  But when my breda heard he'd brought back the heart, she told him I would probably want it.  She knows me well!  The next weekend, after she went out after the same herd and brought home a second caribou, my Darlin'Man, my father and I went over to the Garagehome and made quick work of the butchering.  So it was that I came home with not only wrapped caribou steaks and ground meat and even dog scraps* for the freezer, but also one fresh heart in need of rinsing, and one frozen heart with set of lungs.  I have no idea what to do with the lungs.  But, I firmly believe in using all parts of an animal that you've killed to eat, and am fascinated by traditional food ways' use of the innards of an animal.  I also lust after my own copy of the River Cottage Meat Book. 
(*Please note that caribou carry parasites in their muscles that will give dogs a really wretched case of the worms.  PLEASE COOK your dog's wild game scraps!)

So, I arrived home with a fresh, never frozen, caribou heart in a Ziploc bag.  I knew I needed to brine it, having read the MooseHunting string of posts over at the wonderful WellPreserved.  Rereading his post, I was relieved that 2-5 days brine was the suggestion.  It bought me some time to actually figure out what to do with the heart.  In Kristin Kimball's "The Dirty Life," she tells of her man pan frying, pan searing really, a freshly shot venison heart, I had initially thought of doing just that, but the raw heart with ventricles still sticking out and its unappetizing fascia still wrapping it, made me question such a notion.  So I consulted the internet, and while pan-searing came in second, the overwhelming first choice for heart preparation (whether beef or venison) was long slow stewing.  I found a few recipes for venison bourgignon that I thought I might use as my starting point.  Cutting into the brined heart a few days later, I was impressed by the quality of the muscle, superior in color and texture to the tenderloin I had cut from along the spine a few days beforehand. 

The resulting stew I made was precisely as I've always imagined such a stew should be.

Heart is both chewy and tender.  Caribou heart has the pleasant spiceyness of game meat, the kind that reminds me of a mixture between allspice and spruce tips.  Heart stewed in a slow cooker for 11 hours, imbues 5 times its volume in vegetables with an incomparable richness, and a house with a warm and oh-so-welcoming smell.  There are few things better than coming home after a long day in town, long after dark, having driven down icy roads, to the full aroma of a warm and delicious dinner. 

I have read that heart tastes like a pleasant cross between steak and liver, the richness due in large part to the high amount of blood unsurprisingly within the tissue.  I imagine it is this same quanitity of blood that causes the richness of such a stew.  The blood mixes with the broth and, in this case, the wine to add depth of flavor and the thick richness I have always imagined.  Eating the vegetables and the broth is such a pleasure, I am almost surprised by the bites that actually have meat in them.

The Recipe

Take one heart. Brine in salt and sugar water with allspice berries and rosemary for 2-5 days.
Peel off fascia (it should come off easily at this point), and cut out the cartilage of the ventricles, and any fat.  Chop this up into pieces, boil with kibble and bask in the love of your husky.

Slice the heart into quarters, and clean out any clotted blood inside the chambers (this can be added to the husky pot).  Remove the heartstings.  Chop the heart meat into pieces.  Set aside.

Get out your large crockpot.  Chop up a bunch of garlic (and onions if you wish:  I was prepping this late at night for the next day and had a bag of frozen pearl onions hanging out in the freeze.  Being tired and prone to onion-tears, I just used those.) Add plenty of parsley, thyme, basil, and oregano.  Pour in half an inch of red wine. 

Chop up half a dozen large carrots, and about the same of potatoes. Add a few handfuls of chopped celery. Dump in plenty of frozen peas and corn (or canned, or fresh).  Notice you have scallions in the fridge and add these. 

Add chopped heart.

Open a large can of pureed tomatoes, and add this.  Fill can with water to simultaneously rinse and measure water for the meal. 

Stir.  Notice you need more liquid.  Pour rest of unfinished wine bottle into the pot.  Then add a little more water until the liquid is not quite covering the top layer.  (If you have stock on hand, use this instead, I was just out of stock and the local meats shop had no soup bones the last time I checked.)

The next morning, plug in the crockpot and set to low.  Go to work.

Come home and eat.

I recommend serving with Stone Brewery Arrogant Bastard.  It would also be good with bread for sopping.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dried Summer Sunshine

Wild rose, chiming bells, red clover, fireweed

I made midwinter herb mixes for friend and fellow yoga instructors at my studio last week.  At one point I'd intended to gift them as Solstice presents, but then life – in the form of a snowstorm, a truck, and a bone-broken sister – got in the way.  It is a good gift, too, though for the starting of the new year.

I made a few mixes: a headache tea with red clover (useful for thinning the blood and relieving stress), chamomile (to calm and sooth), and mint (to clear space and stimulate the stomach meridian.  Mint is good for digestion, yes?  And the stomach meridian is responsible for digesting, not only food, but anything that comes in through the sense doors – including thoughts).
LadyTime tea was made with red raspberry leaves (a uterine tonic), wild arctic chamomile (soothing again), and wild violets (which contain some female hormones and are lovely to balance one's mood.)
And then I made a few variations of flower facial steams using combinations of chamomile, wild arctic rose (similar to the beach roses of the east coast, but growing inland), fireweed, chiming bell, bachelor's buttons, calendula, white clover, yarrow and red clover. 
I also made a Clear Complexion facial steam with horsetail (apparently amazing for the skin in a steam, this is the first year I've harvested it), coltsfoot (a staple in a Renaissance lady's beauty regimen – you know, along with belladonna and lead.  The only difference being that coltsfoot is good for you, and worked to make skin more healthy instead of less), plaintain (for its anti microbial and healing and drawing-out properties), calendula (for healing), yarrow (good for oily skin and blemishes, also healing), and arctic chamomile (for the soothing). 
Facial steams are a practice that every year I intend to cultivate regularly, and every year (so far) I only cultivate occasionally.  Here in the oh-so-dry and oh-so-cold northern Interior, facial steams can be tonic for the whole system, breathing in and basking in warm wet air is like a mini sauna for the soul. 

All the herbs I used were ones that I either grew or collected (with the exception of augmenting my sparse chamomile stash with a bit from the health food store – note to self, remember to harvest chamomile BEFORE it gets too cold to do so).  It is such a joy and gift to be able to share a little dried summer sunshine with those around me as we wait for the sun to ever so slowly return to us.  Today marked 4 hours and 19 minutes between sunrise and sunset.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thankful Thursdays

Today I am thankful for new beginnings and for ever continuings.

I am thankful for my patient, kind, grounded man.

I am thankful for a job I find frequently fascinating.

And as ever, since I write this post after teaching my weekly thursday night yoga class, you get to hear the ever truth that I am thankful for my students and for my teachers.

I am grateful for my own practice and the kind souls I have met in this life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hoppin'John : Happy New Year

Hoppin'John with collards and cornbread

Its New Year's Day in the evening, and that can only mean one thing around these parts: Hoppin'John.  Every year for most of my life has begun with a bowl of black eyed peas.  It is a tradition rooted in the deep south.  Why am I making it in the far north you ask?  For one, I love traditional foods, and traditions that are based on or that surround food.  I think that eating meals is one of the best and most meaningful ways to mark the passage of time.  Also, we lived in Alabama for a few years when I was young,  and worked on the first organic CSA in that fine state so we had an abundance of black eyed peas come January first.  Our family has eaten it once a year ever since. 

One branch of my family tree is the Lee's of Mississippi (of General Robert E. fame).  Sometimes I like to think that I'm making dishes my great grandmother or her mother might have made, though the reality is that she may have thought meal one fit only for slaves.  Hoppin'John is, essentially a pot of black eyed peas with some seasonings.  It is thought to have derived from the afro-cubano inspired slave culture of the cotton plantation south.  The OED's first citiation of its use is from an 1800's travelogue called "A Journey in the Seaboard Slave Slave States" by Fredrick Olmsted.  He says "The greatest luxury with which they are acquainted is a stew of bacon and peas, with red pepper, which they call 'Hopping John'."

I base my recipe off the one in "Sundays at Moosewood" with a nudge or two from my mother's "Joy of Cooking:"  it has peas and peppers, spices and pepper, a bit of tamari and no bacon.  We usually eat it, as is traditional, with rice but this year I made cornbread instead.  And of course served collards.  Cornbread and collards, now.  That is a southern tradition I can guarantee my great great grandmother would have approved of. 

Hoppin'John eaten on the first of the year is said to bring luck and prosperity and peace in the new year.  So I eat it as an intention for my own upcoming year and as a conscious act of love for all with whom I share this planet.

Happy 2013!  May it bring you much beauty and joy!

The Darlin'Man and me dear Da.