Month: December 2007

Hoppin’ John

New Year’s Day dinner, with its accompanying football games, is a family ritual that I’ve missed since moving to New England. For me, cornbread on New Year’s Day is important, as are the hog-flavored black-eyed peas with onion that one eats for good luck in the coming year.

One of the first dishes my mom showed me how to make was Hoppin’ John, with its rice and meat and black-eyed peas, and I make it in years when I’m away from my family on New Year’s Day.

1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 pound sausage
1 vidalia onion, chopped
1.5 cups dried white rice
0.5 teaspoon ground black pepper
0.5 teaspoon cayenne
0.5 teaspoon cumin
0.5 teaspoon thyme, rosemary, or sage
0.5 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf

Soak washed peas in cold water overnight.

Brown the sausage over medium-high heat. Set aside and reserve the liquids. Cook onion in the sausage liquids for 6-8 minutes over medium heat, until the onion turns translucent. Add powdered spices while the onion cooks.

Add 6 cups water and bay leaf and sausage and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes and add peas. Keep at a low boil for 25 minutes, uncovered, until peas are almost tender. Add rice and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Stop cooking. Remove from heat, keeping the lid on, for 5 minutes. Toss with fork and serve hot.

That’s the basic recipe, at least. I’ve got some shrimp shells that will help flavor the 6 cups of water when I make a broth today, and some cilantro that I’ll add at the last 5 minutes.

Happy New Year to you, reader. I hope the stroke of midnight finds you with money in your pocket and someone in your arms.

Christmas Pudding

From the recipe of Janet Klink Irvine, my mother’s grandmother.

2 cups grated carrots
2 cups grated potatoes
2 cups sifted flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 pinches of salt
.75 teaspoon nutmeg
.75 teaspoon cloves
.75 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix baking soda with grated potatoes. Combine mixture with grated carrots. Coat walnuts and raisins with flour. Add flour, then coated walnuts and raisins to the mixture. Add spices and mix thoroughly.

Spoon into a well-greased mold. Steam in the top of a double boiler for three hours.

May be cooked the day before: remove from mold and cool. Wash and grease mold, then store the pudding in the mold ready to reheat and serve hot with hard sauce. Serves twelve.

Hard sauce:

.5 cup soft butter
2 tablespoons brandy
3 cups sifted powdered sugar

Combine and blend with electric mixer at lowest speed, then at medium speed until fluffy. Chill. Makes 1.5 cups.

Term’s End

188 cadet final exams graded. 65 student evaluations written and final grades assigned. One interview completed. Three webtexts edited.

I’m tired and done and in D.C. for the holidays right now, looking forward to spending time with family and the first Christmas with my brother in a long time.

And after that? Two syllabi to write. And with one early draft (with all citations intact) of a certain field manual received this very morning, I’ve also got an article on plagiarism to write.

In the meantime, though, happy holidays to you and yours. I’m in charge of the mashed potatoes and the Christmas pudding this year, and Dad’s doing geese.

A Reading

I’m teaching two sections of plebe — freshman — literature in the spring, and I’m looking forward to it as something that I haven’t done in a while; something that might refresh the ways I teach other courses. The freshman literature course here takes various and changing forms, but right now it’s a largely genre-driven introduction to American literature, and I’m happy to work with the broad opportunities such a perspective permits.

What’s nice about teaching here is that prominent folks — to me, the most remarkable example being Noam Chomsky — are sometimes curious about us, and accept invitations to speak with the cadets. Had I my own department to run, I’d love to see the boundaries pushed a bit further — to see, for example, how students might respond to speakers like Hakim Bey or Eve Ensler or Mark Z. Danielewski.

What about you, reader? Say you’re teaching an intro to literature course, and you have a scant budget. Maybe you can bring in one or two nearby writers — authors of contemporary poetry or fiction or creative nonfiction — who would enjoy talking to your students. Who would you ask to visit?