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Sassy's Spicy Hoppin' John! 

Sassy's Spicy HOPPIN' JOHN is almost ready!

Here at the Maricopa Cabana, Hoppin' John is one of the ways we celebrate the beginning of a New Year. Traditionally served with cornbread and greens (collard greens, mustard greens, chard, kale or cabbage), the main ingredients in this delicious winter dish are black-eyed peas, rice, chopped onion, country bacon (ham hock or fatback), green peppers and spices. Sassy always adds a little Arizona Gunslinger for an extra kick. Enjoy Hoppin' John on New Year's Day for good luck and prosperity throughout the year.

Be sure to eat your fill: the peas represent coins, the greens are cash, and the cornbread, gold!



This month marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which President Lincoln issued on January 1, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. The document declares that all those held as slaves within any state, or part of a state, in rebellion "shall be then, thenceforward and forever free."


Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 50 minutes


1/3 pound bacon
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound dried black-eyed peas, about 2 cups
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 heaping teaspoon Cajun seasoning
2 cups long-grain rice
Scallions or green onions for garnish


1 Cut bacon into small pieces and cook it slowly in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Once the bacon is crispy, increase the heat to medium-high and add the celery, onion, and green pepper and sauté until they begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

2 Add the black-eyed peas, bay leaf, thyme and Cajun seasoning and cover with 4 cups of water. Cook for 30 minutes to an hour, or longer if needed, until the peas are tender (not mushy).

3 While the black-eyed peas are cooking, cook the rice separately according to package instructions.

4 When the peas are tender, strain out the remaining cooking water. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Taste the peas for salt and add more if needed. 

Serve the dish either by placing a ladle-full of black-eyed peas over steamed rice, or by mixing the two together in a large bowl. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with collard greens, kale, beet or turnip greens.


On this day in 1940, one of my favorite authors, Carson McCullers (from Columbus, Georgia) published her first novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

The Heart is often cited as one of the great masterworks of the Southern Gothic genre for its exploration of spiritually isolated outcasts in the American South. McCullers' primary message, however, is a universal one. As expressed by Tennessee Williams, "Carson's major theme is the huge importance and nearly insoluble problems of human love."

The misfits who populate McCullers' novels (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The Member of the Wedding and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe) are so compellingly real that I often think about them as if they are actual people I know personally today, rather than fictional characters I became acquainted with over 30 years ago.

If you haven't had the pleasure of reading McCullers, I recommend her wholeheartedly.