Editor's note: The recipe and introductory text below are from The Glory of Southern Cooking by James Villas. As Villas explains, hoppin' John is eaten on New Year's Day because black-eyed peas look like coins and are considered lucky. Wanna know why this age-old dish of black-eyed peas and rice is eaten all over the South on New Year's Day to bring good luck? Because the peas look like little coins that swell when cooked, that's why. (Some say for ultimate success and prosperity, you should eat exactly 365 peas.) Stories abound about the obscure origins of the name hoppin' John, one being that, in antebellum days, a certain lame black cook named John hopped about a plantation kitchen on one leg while preparing the dish. Of course, the debate rages from region to region over the correct approaches to hoppin' John. Must the peas be served with rice? Should they actually be cooked with rice? Are tomatoes a key ingredient, and if so, should they be stewed and spooned over the peas and rice or simply chopped raw over the top? Should the peas be cooked till they're almost mushy or just al dente? Herbs added? Everything cooked in a saucepan or castiron skillet? Here's the way I do hoppin' John, which is wonderful with baked spareribs or braised country ham or chitlins or anything else you can think of.