Out of curiosity, I’ve googled both “ham hock” and “okra” in the last two days just to see what Wikipedia had to say. They don’t say much. You can get technical about these sorts of foods but when it comes to black eyed peas, ham hocks and okra you have to be subjective. There isn’t anything glamorous to say about cooking with “the tibia/fibula and the metatarsals of the foot, where the foot was attached to the hog’s leg” but there is a lot to say about sentiment.
Growing up in Florida my grandmother, who was an 8th generation Floridian, drove us around during our summer vacations to swamps and prairies, war reenactments and manatee holes. She had a mission to make sure her granddaughters would remember what Florida looked like before the Walt Disney’s of the world. We would listen to the Andrew’s Sisters sing “Hold Tight” (which I remember as the Seafood Song) and my grandmother would repeatedly ask from the drivers seat “What’s that girls?” and we would all chime back in unison “That’s the Real Florida.”
To me, ham hocks, okra and black eyed peas are “real foods.” These are the kinds of foods that take you back to shelling black eyed peas with your grandmother during summer vacation – the foods that people survived on when all they had were the worst cuts of meat – and, ironically, these are the foods that are making their way back into popularity in the culinary world.
My friend Pam joined my mom and I for dinner on Saturday night and I was a little worried about how she would receive the menu – but her face lit up when she looked into the steaming pots of the stove. She too said “I haven’t eaten like this in years. This is my favorite meal.” We all had seconds that night.
Black Eyed Peas
2 pounds shelled fresh black eyed peas
1 ham hock
Put the ham hock into a large pot on the stove and cover with water. Boil the ham hock for a good 20 minutes to release the flavor. Dump the peas into the pot with the water and ham hock and lower the heat. Simmer the peas for about an hour or until the peas are tender. Salt to taste.