a.jones © 2012

In the 1960s, living out my southern childhood amongst the gray walls of 325 Hazard Drive, it was enough to know that collard greens, black-eyed peas and rice were necessary to good luck in the New Year. I didn’t know anything about “customs” or “superstitions”, but peas and rice would bring change to jingle in your pocket and the greens were for folding money. I knew that, and everybody I knew knew that. It was also important for your first visitor of the year to be someone of the opposite sex (not a blood kin). My elder cousin Jessie was known to arrange with a female friend to knock on his door, leaving nothing to chance. Jessie passed away in 2010 at the age of 91 ~ having been the oldest living descendant of my paternal grandfather, Ras Jones’ twenty-one offsprings.

On my research visits home the past 5-6 years, I never missed a chance to interview Jessie. When I started writing Peach Seed Monkey in 2005, many of Jessie’s stories and his property in Putney, Georgia were the inspiration for story. He was three years older than my dad, Silas and they grew up more like brothers than nephew/uncle. My protagonist, Fletcher Dukes, is a composite of  those two men and other male relatives of their generation— black men who came of age way before the Civil Rights Era and experienced a certain kind of America.

But back to the food ~

There’s certainly no shortage of info, lies and speculations out there about the origins of “Hoppin’ John” —as the black-eyed peas and rice are called—and I’ll leave it to you to search and seize the one that suits you. As for me, I’m happy knowing what I shared with you above. That basic knowledge (and the good eats) have sustained me since my mother, Irene and maternal Grandmama, Arlena stirred the pot of peas in the deep well of our old stove. Now there’s something to search ~ deep well! (The beauty of blogging, I haven’t thought of that word (or seen a deep well) in 50 years.)

a.jones © 2012