Before I moved to North Carolina, I hadn't heard of the traditional southern New Year's Day foods. Early on, I noticed shoppers in the grocery who were buying almost identical things for their January 1st meal: ham, collard greens and fresh black-eyed peas. The shoppers got a chuckle out of my not knowing what the large green leafed vegetable or the little peas were or how to prepare them. After they had given me a short lesson on the how-to's for greens and the peas, I'm sure they walked away saying knowingly to one another, "Well bless her heart."
Many southerners, including my husband, believe eating these foods on New Years Day will bring good fortune for the coming year. Black-eyed peas are symbolic of little coins, collard greens are the greenbacks, both signs of wealth, while cornbread indicates gold. Some believe pork is eaten because the pig can only look forward, not back.
Our dinner was a tad different this year, as we had hopping john instead of just black-eyed peas, and rolls instead of cornbread. (Our favorite cornbread recipe calls for buttermilk and none was to be found.) We enjoyed pork chops as we'd just had ham for Christmas.
My DH found a recipe for hopping john in Charleston Receipts, a book we bought there on our honeymoon nearly 36 years ago. I love this quaint book because stories are included with many of the recipes.