Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This is a Soup Bean Day

Today we are cooking soup beans. This is an Appalachian food not to be confused with bean soup. All day long we cook pinto beans with pork fat in it. This is the staple of a good mountain meal, although like all good mountain meals, you have to have more than one thing. So, you can't just have soup beans. Tonight we are having it with biscuits, onions, fried potatoes, and macaroni and tomatoes.

I don't usually blog about food (that would be Tim). But, as you all know, I do like to blog about Appalachian culture. Since we are getting to the time of year when we begin to think about Christmas Country Dance school, and celebrating Christmas mountain style, I thought I would share with you the wonderful story of Soup Beans.

Here's an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Appalachian Home Cooking, by Mark Sohn.

"Of all the bean dishes, the most popular is soup beans. To a native of Appalachia, soup beans is just a name for a soup everyone makes; to outsiders it is an exotic specialty. Simple, traditional, and mountain through and through, soup beans are a silky-smooth, pork-flavored dish of pinto beans usually free of bean soup ingredients... one recipe uses just three ingredients: pork, beans, and water. Elvis Hatfield, of Pinson Fork on Pond Creek in Pike County, Kentucky, makes soup beans with five ingredients: water, pinto beans, lard, salt and pepper. First, he soaks the beans overnight. Then, he puts the ingredients in a saucepan and simmers them all day. Soup beans... merit a place on the list of famous Southern soups. In the mountains when the sky turns gray and the sun is low at noon, the delicate aroma of boiling beans fills the house. Walking in from the cold out of doors, you enjoy the fragrance of smoked pork and earthy beans."

The book also includes this poem, one of my favorites:

Soup Beans and Cornbread
By Rick Neal
I promised myself
that I would never eat
soup beans and cornbread
again, when I grew up. 
That pancakes and homemade syrup
would never be served in my home.
That I would never wear
patched blue jeas
or crew cut ever again!
Such is the promise of youthful
naivete of the real world,
in which my mother
raised nine children by herself. 
She made it look easy,
as though wood cook stoves
and hand sewn quilts
were her lifestyle choices
As though working in a coal mine
was her decision
and not the requirement 
for earning a decent wage
in an Appalachian man's world. 
Yes, I promised these things
as I squeezed in between
my 8 brothers and sisters
at the dinner table,
and watched mom fill my plate
with soup beans and cornbread
before gathering her hard hat,
boots, and breathing apparatus
to work the 2nd shift
in a West Virginia coal mine. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I don't know who Teiga is, but this is true nonetheless...

"To the right, books; to the left, a teacup. In front of me, the fireplace; behind me, the post. There is no greater happiness than this.
- Teiga