The Musical Fruit

Photo - NICHOLSON, Louis Jr. - adultMy uncle “Louie Boy” used to cook A LOT of beans. As a divorced steel mill worker in 1958 with custody of four kids, and later, a remarried postal worker with six — it is no wonder he did everything he could to stretch his dollars in a valiant effort to keep all of those mouths full.

There is no doubt that I (and surely his own children) had a hard time appreciating the economical wisdom of his food choices during those times. No matter how nourishing, beans were something people turned up their noses at. They represented poor people’s food — not to be relished in times that were flush (as they were for many people during the “baby boomer” years).

Circumstances being what they were, Uncle Louie frequently presided over a big pot in which beans were simmered for hours on end — red beans, broad beans, pinto beans, lima beans, black eyed peas…. sometimes cooked with salt pork or neck bones…. always accompanied by rice… corn bread on the side.

I surmise that Uncle Louie learned to cook beans from my grandmother (who grew up in reduced circumstances on a farm) or maybe my grandfather (his namesake), who ate broad beans doused with hot sauce on soft white bread. Whatever the case, I fondly remember Uncle Louie for many things… and will NEVER forget that his beans were BEST.

As I cook my own beans these days, I laugh as I sing the little ditty he taught me:

Beans, beans, the musical fruit.
The more you eat, the more you toot.
The more you toot, the better you feel.
So let’s have beans at every meal!

Here is my recipe for red (kidney) beans (which I have grown up to LOVE and cook often). When I am flush, I include the meat. When I am not… well… the beans still please (and I sleep alone):

RED BEANS — in honor of Louis B. Nicholson, Jr. 

Red beans w sausage

INGREDIENTS

2 cups red kidney beans (dry)
5 cups water (add more if needed)
¼ cup peanut oil
¼ cup palm oil
1/2# ground beef
1/2# smoked sausage
1 large onion (chopped)
4 plum tomatoes (chopped)

SEASONING

1/2 cup bouillon (vegetable, chicken or beef)
1 tsp baking soda (to cut gas)
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tsp pepper (crushed red)
1 tsp thyme

INSTRUCTIONS

PUT beans, water, and bouillon in a soup pot
MIX well and bring to a boil
TURN DOWN heat and COOK until beans are medium soft
SAUTE meats in oil
ADD vegetables and seasoning
MIX well and COOK until meats are done
ADD sauté mixture to beans
REDUCE heat to medium and COOK until beans are very tender (at least 2 hours)
SERVE over rice with corn bread on the side

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