Read closely, and you'll see that this Hoppin' John was not made with the variety of black-eyed pea with which we are familiar. The dominant field pea in the low country was a red variety, the Sea Island Red Pea, which has now been popularized by the likes of Anson Mills and Sean Brock. Far more flavorful and firm than commodity black-eyes, Sea Island Reds gave the dish far more character than you taste today. (Add to that Carolina Gold rice, again, a nuttier and more aromatic variety of long-grain rice, and you've already got a character-filled pot of food. Strips of bacon or ham hock or, really, any kind of cured pork that hasn't been injected with water and fed a diet of commodity feed, add even more character.)
However, as Adrian Miller writes in "Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time," black-eyed peas managed to become the predominant field pea in the Southeast, and, eventually the United States as a whole. African-Americans from the Low Country who moved north during the Great Migration ended up substituting black-eyed peas for red peas, as these were what where available.
But even with commodity black-eyed peas, you can still make an old-fashioned Hoppin' John, and you don't need to build a fire. I dug up a mid-century recipe for Hoppin' John (spelled then "Hopping John") in an original copy of "Charleston Receipts." Like the Rudledge recipe, the dish is simple, adding only an onion to the original, and cooked all together in a single pot. The author, Mrs. W. H. Barnwell, calls for either a rice steamer or double boiler to finish the dish, allowing the rice to steam slowly amongst the boiled peas and bacon, and giving the whole dish a cohesive, and delicious aroma.
The original recipe works almost as written; however, I've increased the volume of water to cook the rice and added a note to add more water to the boiling peas, as well. If you choose to finish the dish in a double boiler, be sure to give the mixture a gentle stir every once in awhile to make sure each grain of rice gets cooked evenly.
Remember, though, the more flavorful the ingredients you start with, the better the final dish will turn out. Either way, I won't fault you for adding some hot sauce.
Get the recipe for Old-Fashion Hoppin' John here.