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I went out on New Year's Eve in search of adventure, but there was little to be had. Nothing bad happened, but nothing good either. Last year's New Year was the best I'd had in a long time, then the rest of the year seemed to go slowly downhill after that. I can only hope things improve after this, then. New Year's Day was better, as I had a chance to see Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. More about that in a bit.

It occurs to me that "traditional" cooking can indeed be a kind of cooking magic, because I'm giving respect to history and casting my spell (through my cooking) to achieve the effect intended with today's dish: a meal meant to bring good luck and prosperity. And so, I'm hoppin' on the Hoppin' John bandwagon today, and it's my first time making Hoppin' John. I've only been cooking for a little over two years, and today was my first time following this Southern tradition on New Year's Day. This was also my first time eating Hoppin' John – because I'm a New Englander from an Italian family, dishes from the Deep South didn't show up on our table very often as I grew up. Fortunately, as those of you who make this regularly will know, this is one of those dishes that are simplicity itself to make. I live in a Brazilian neighborhood and consequently pork pieces can be had in abundance here; there's a chain of Hispanic-themed supermarkets called "Seabra" that have everything you would ever want for Latin American cooking. So, picking up a big bag of pork pieces, including jowls and hocks, was no difficulty at all. From there, it was simply a matter of soaking a pound of black-eyed peas overnight, and then adding all of the ingredients together in the pot: peas, a pound of pork pieces, the extra leftover pork fat from yesterday's ham, chopped onion, chopped red bell pepper, salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer it for an hour and a half. The recipe I used said to then stir in long grain white rice and simmer it for another 25 minutes until the rice was soft; some recipes say to make the rice and greens separately, and serve the pork and beans over it. I didn't see any problem with cooking the rice directly in with the dish, as it certainly added flavor and made for a much thicker broth. From there, the dish was sided with some steamed kale and spinach, and Southern style cornbread. Happy New Year! (P.S. - it's hot! I don't mean spicy, I mean piping hot!)