In the Southern United States, it's traditional to eat or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin' john. The talk around the campfire was this legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under union attack. The town folk fortunately discovered black-eyed peas or cowpeas in the surrounding fields and the legume was thereafter considered lucky.
1 1/2 cups dry black-eyed peas
1 pound ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 cup shredded smoked Cheddar cheese
In a large pan place the peas, ham hock, onion, red pepper, salt and pepper. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Remove ham hock and cut meat into pieces. Return meat to pot. Stir in the rice, cover and cook until rice is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle shredded cheese over top , ifdesired.