The Certified Poll Watcher's Genuwine Hoppin' John

by Carol Caldwell
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hoppin_john1.jpg Here’s a dish particular to the Low Country, down South Carolina way, and it is um-um- hamfat delicious. We’ve been eating it all our lives which is why some Yankee wags are prone to call us southerners full of beans.  Reformed southerners eat Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day made with black-eyes, though this version is not absolutely kosher since the peas in the pot are supposed to be field peas.  But everybody knows you have to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day or you won’t be rich in the year to come.  So make it how you’d druther depending on the date.

It’s said that the way the dish came to be called this was after an African American street vendor in Charleston, early 1800’s, a fellow with a hitch in his getalong known as…

                 HOPPIN’ JOHN

    1 pound dried field peas, rinse and let soak overnight in 6 cups water
    When you’re good and ready the next day, throw your peas in a pot,
    Along with the liquid, adding four strips of bacon, or a half pound
    Smoked hog jowl or ham hock
    Add one medium to large chopped onion and some salt.

Bring those peas to a boil, reduce heat and cook some.  (About an hour.) Spoon out the skin and bones if you’re using jowl, or skim off some grease if you’re using bacon.  Then add in another cup or so of water, a cup of rice, bring it back to boil, turn it down to simmer, cover it all up and when the rice is cooked,  I like to throw in some chopped canned jalapenos just to give it that extra non-resident alien twist with a bit more illegal immigrant kickback.  

For some reason, Hoppin’ John puts me in mind of the South Carolina primary back in early 2000.  Back then, it was Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, etc.etc., and none of this haggling and gun-jumping as goes on by your upstart states.  It’s a known fact that whoever wins the South Carolina primary without fail goes on to win the presidency.  They’re very proud of that down there. The state’s other major claim to fame being the birthplace of Lee Atwater, Republican Super Hero and Founding Father of the Dirty Trick.

You remember Lee Atwater, Bush 41’s el supremo strategist, the mastermind of crime who brought us the Willie Horton pardon-the-rapist campaign, the “how’d you like him to poke your own Miss Kitty” debate jab that KO’ed Michael Dukakis.  As if Rocky the Flying Squirrel couldn’t have shot his own self in the tail.  But former CIA Chiefs hardly ever leave human events to run their own courses, and Bush One (for whom CIA HQ is now named) is no exception.  Lee Atwater, so they say, had an Eleventh Hour conversion under pressure from the giant brain tumor he was dying of, hoping to refute his evil genius and mollify his Maker, but my guess is God wasn’t having any of it.  (Remember when Bush One announced he’d been born again, out of the blue!)

john_mccain.jpg This brings us to John McCain whose ascendancy to born again frontrunner made my mouth water for Hoppin’ John.  It was that selfsame South Carolina primary, but in the Year 2000, when George Bush the Second was coming out of New Hampshire trailing the Great White Senator, and as you recollect, McCain was a big helpin’ of percentage points ahead in S.C. thanks to its sizable military population.  Nobody doubted McCain’s potential sweep through the Palmetto state to beat out Baby Doc.

Lee Atwater was long gone on to wherever his reward by 2000, but South Carolina metastacysts who had spun off his Strangelovian sickness were alive and well, and so, were promptly hired by Bush’s Brain prior to the primary.  These mini-Lees set about plastering flyers to windshields assaying John McCain’s African American love child (a definite drawback for a fine upstanding white politician until it became fashionable again thanks to Strom Thurmond.)  Other slams against McCain’s family and record were phone-banked and leafleted to mailboxes all over a state not known for its educated ideas about the race thing.

So it’s something to think about it, isn’t it, as we let our rice and peas and onions, our bacon and jalapenos simmer their full forty minutes, that after this king hell thrashin’, this egregious character assassination by the Committee to Inveigle George Bush the Second into office, that ole Hoppin’ John McCain jumped right back into the fryin’ pan with the newly crowned “President” and backed the very folks who smeared those he purports to hold most dear, now that that bothersome blondeened lobbyist’s popped out of the bag.

Yep.  Hard for us Rebs who still affix “FORGIT? HELL!” license plates to the on-coming end of our automobiles, hard for us to imagine what goes on in the mind of a man who would let somethin’ like that go.  Slurs of that nature against a man’s family’s honor and so on and so forth.  But the way we heard tell, and you know, B’rer Bear, eventually things like these things will weasel their way out of the briar patch…just as Strom’s beautiful black daughter saw fit to come out of her closet. 

diebold_lg.jpg And the way we heard it down here was that Poppy Doc and Baby Doc promised ole Hoppin’ John if he just kept his trap shut and toed the War Party line with ‘em, (not a’gin ‘em,) they’d damn sight make sure he’d take New Hampshire this time (just like he did, pretty as you please, to everyone’s surprise, even his!), and be given the gift of South Carolina in 2008, no matter what pie-eyed preacher tried to stick his nosy family values nose into their customized voting machines.   And furthermore, they promised to swing the 2008 general election John’s way via the same electronic switcheroo they pulled off for Bush Two in Florida the first time, Ohio the following time—and, on top of which…!!!!!!!!!!   Mark it, happy readers, you have heard it here first!  The way they’s gonna deliver Johnny Boy McCain his guaran-goddamn-teed two full puppet terms on the throne, will be in Pennsylvania this time, the Keystone State!  Along with hundreds of other specially gerryrigged voting machines across the breadth and depth of this depleted Republic thereby insuring the continuance of George the First and George the Second’s Hundred Years war, as the heir apparent likes to put it.  Even unto a thousand years, like Hoppy says, if that’s what it takes! 


Carol Caldwell is a screenwriter and journalist who lived in L.A., lives in her hometown now, and whose new play about current First Ladies, My Secret Weapon, won best original play of the year, 2006, in its Nashville and North Carolina runs. 


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