“Hoppin' John” Taylor describes the historical and literary antecedents of his namesake dish. He doubts the culinary historian Karen Hess's theoretical conclusions, but agrees that the pilau of cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata) and rice came to the lowcountry, the coastal plain of South Carolina, with the slave trade from West Africa. Hoppin’ john is eaten on New Year's for good luck. The dish and tradition spread from lowcountry rice plantations throughout the South. He demonstrates how culinary traditions lingered in the lowcountry long after rice was no longer grown there. Deconstructing the dish, Taylor describes the often maddening nomenclature, both scientific and common, of Vigna, the blackeyes, crowders, field peas, or southern peas used in the dish, as well as the traditional companion planting methods of both West Africans and Native Americans. He cites historical nineteenth-century published materials, including the recipe that appeared in The Carolina Housewife in 1847, as well as the mention of the dish by the well-known twentieth-century literary authors, Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams. Rice and legumes form complete proteins, making the dish highly nutritional.

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