Hopping John By Kalen

Hopping John

A wise old lady once told me, “Thank God for delays and disappointments.”

While it has been years since I have heard this, I have never forgotten these words. Initially, I chalked it up to the rants of a crazy old Creole lady, but over the years, this saying has proven to be fantastic words to live by. Actually, it has become one of my favorites that I like to whisper to myself whenever I start getting heated about something not working out the way I wanted or expected. It is a great little exercise for a control freak like me.

The thought process goes a little like this: Missed my flight – oh well, it was probably going to go down in a ball of flames anyways. Hit crazy traffic on the way home after a hellacious day – that just gives me more time to sing obnoxiously to myself in the car.

My kids recently brought home a similar little rendition to this saying that they learned in school, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!” Pretty darned smart if you ask me. They seem to like this better than when I sing the Rolling Stones “You can’t always get what you want…”  to them.

At face value, all of these sayings are some pretty simple words, but I have found that accepting something less than desirable is a pretty tough lesson to learn. I am reminded of this every time I go through the drive through and order something sans cheese only to find out later at home they screwed up the order. While I open up the hamburger and see that cheese has melted in to the whole thing, my blood pressure rises, and I start to murmur out loud, “How fricken hard can it be too…”and then I cut myself off, “simmer down now, it’s just a hamburger”. Oh well, probably didn’t need that 2000 calorie guacamole bacon burger anyway.

I am finding this lesson of acceptance to also be very, very difficult to teach. As I write this, I realize this is the control freak in me coming out. The thing is though, like most parents, I don’t want my children to have to go through the hardships in life that I did to learn the true value of these words. I want Barney to teach them.

I am starting to wonder though if the sad truth is, figuratively of course, that it takes a small burn to learn not to touch the stove. Case in point- I was reading an amazing book a couple weeks ago, “Kidjacked: A Father’s Story”, by Scott Lesnick, a true story about how the author fiercely battled to get his children back from an ex-wife that kidnapped their children and took them to another country. Like any good memoir would, he discusses his life in general to give the reader all the background info and, in doing so, he describes how he developed a successful sales career. It wasn’t something he studied for or some fancy seminar he attended. Instead, sadly, it was that his Mom beat the tar out of him good and often when he was young so he learned early on how to read people and situations for survivals sake. Talk about turning a frown upside down – the guy built a successful career out of avoiding child abuse.

While I don’t intend on beating lessons into my children, it is this gritty resolve that I would love to instill in them, just that I would rather do it as innocently as possible. This is why I purposely screw up the DVR so it doesn’t record the last 10 minutes of their favorite show. Or I put the steak where the ketchup is supposed to be and put my sons food on his sister’s girl plate. Oops – silly Daddy. Of course, they whine and protest, which I follow-up with, “Hey kid, life is full of disappointment, get over it”. Then I feel guilty and tickle them and say, “Just kidding. Mommy will take care of it.”

So in keeping with the theme of delays & disappointments and in honor of the crazy old Creole lady who blessed me with the full understanding of this saying, I am finally getting around to posting this New Years recipe, Hopping John by Kalen. I have been meaning to post this since January, but life, kids, and the general chaos have taken priority. All of which  have been fantastic delays and disappointments that I am very grateful for, I might add.

I have been making this recipe now for the past three years, making a few changes here and there. What doesn’t change is the most important part, and that is being sure you get your required allotment of black-eyed peas for good luck – a Creole tradition. Delays and disappointments are great for character building, but a little luck never hurts either!

Ingredients

2 smoked ham hocks
3 Carrots
4 Celery Stalks
2 White Onions
4 Cloves Garlic Crushed
6 sprigs Fresh thyme
2 sprigs Fresh Rosemary
2 Bay Leaves
16 oz Chicken Stock
3 cups water
Pepper
Half bag of collard greens
2 cans of black-eyed peas in southern sauce

Method

A couple of notes first: If you can not find the black-eyed peas in southern sauce, you can make them the old-fashioned way, but this adds a bunch of time. Follow the directions on the package, but add in additional flavor by adding more of the same ingredients as above – celery, onions, bay leaves, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper while they are simmering. Also, the below method is in order to get a clean looking broth, this is why it is two steps. However, you can get pretty much get the same flavor in half the time by just doing everything in one step. It just ain’t as pretty.

Brown the ham hocks on all sides in a soup pot about 5-10 minutes. Add half of the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic – all can be rough chopped. Saute 3 minutes, stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add chicken stock and water – should cover the hamhocks. Add 2 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary, and 2 bay leaves – just throw them in, no need to chop it. Add a dash of crushed pepper. Let simmer for 2 hours or until the ham hocks are falling apart.

Remove ham hocks and pull off meat when cool enough to handle. Discard all the fat/bones. Drain the pot, reserving all the liquid and discarding all the veggies/spices.

Return liquid to the pot. If it is especially oily, you can skim the top off. Put the ham hock meat into the liquid. For the remaining veggies- dice the onions, slice the carrots and celery, crush the garlic and add all to the pot of broth. For the remaining herbs, finely chop the leaves and add to pot. Add the black-eyed peas and the collard greens to the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the veggies are done.

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