Beans from The Questing Feast
A person who I got to know died very recently - so I never really got to make friends with her. She was a potter, gardener, and author of cookery books, amongst other things - all the ingredients seemingly designed to make me befriend someone!
This is from her daughter, who exhibits many of the same wonderful characteristics.
Dried, fresh, any old way, they are damn good, and a mainstay of large
portions of the world's population. I couldn't possibly even begin to do
justice to the myriad means of preparation possible for the bean. Even
an authoritative and comprehensive listing of the varieties would occupy
more space than I wish to use.
years back I owned a small bar in the wilds of deepest Berkeley. It
didn't take me long to go gloriously broke, as the majority of such
ventures do, but as a result I met Earl. Earl was a fine cornet player.
It had been his long standing dream to own his own New Orleans jazz
club. And since it is well known that fools always rush in where the
proverbial angels fear to tread, we became partners in what was also
slated to be a somewhat less than successful business venture, but it
was one hell of a lot of fun while it lasted.
bought out an establishment that was just oozing with Victoriana, a
particular passion of mine. It was grand from the carved back bar to the
crystal chandeliers and Tiffany shades. It was absolutely gorgeous; and
I got to wear my heart's desire, a skin-tight black brocade Victorian
gown with a feather boa. I was in seventh heaven. Our band was grand. We
were fortunate enough to pick up some of the fine musicians who had
been at loose ends since Bob Scobey of San Francisco jazz fame died.
And we served red beans and rice. Not just any red beans and rice, but the
Red Beans and Rice, or so tradition said. Every major name in
traditional jazz history was supposed to have had a hand at the gradual
growth and development of that tasty dish, from Lew Waters and Scobey,
all the way back to its cleans roots of none less than Louis Armstrong's
mother- Through the years it has come to pass that no jazz musician
worth his salt can hit a clear note without a good bate of red beans and
rice under his belt. Now, you must remember that, as with all folk
processes, the validity of this story may be interpreted by the
And here, for all who would
rather fox trot than jerk—or whatever they call it these days—for those
who prefer the sweet syncopation of a clarinet to 80-some-odd decibels
of a plugged-in gleaming guitar, is
New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
those nice little red beans or possibly pintos, but not the large
kidney beans. Put the beans on to soak overnight. This isn't necessary
in the least but it is part of the tradition, and if not done probably
anyone who eats thereof will never be able to play a note again. Put the
beans on to boil with a bit of salt and oodles of water.
take one small—or large, depending on how many musicians and jazz buffs
you intend to feed—pork butt and cut into small chunks, none more than
1/2"x1/2"x 2". When the meat has been cut, put a considerable amount of
drippings, not oil or butter, but drippins, into a cast iron
Dutch oven and heat. Add the diced meat and a lot of chopped garlic.
Toss until the meat is well braised. Reduce heat and add several chopped
onions, a lot of chopped celery, a bell pepper cut into strips, and a
can of well-drained okra. Toss about until all is evenly coated with the
drippings. Try not to eat up all the braised meat while you're making
Add a good splash of red
wine and, of course, have a little yourself. Chop 6 or 8 ripe tomatoes
and add to the pot with a cup of very rich stock. Stir well and taste.
Add salt and pepper as needed. Chop up about a fist full of garlic to
add. Now add as many sliced fresh mushrooms as you feel you can afford
and a rather large pinch of pickling spice, including one of the whole
red peppers and an extra bay leaf. Add a bit of sugar. A bunch of
parsley chopped fine would not be amiss, as well as another good splash
of wine, and why not have a wee bit more yourself.
on the lid and let it simmer for about three hours like for a good
spaghetti sauce. Note that if you use canned okra instead of fresh, you
may want to add the okra during the last hour of cooking.
Turn off the beans when they are tender and let them sit in their water to plump.
the last hour before serving, steam some rice. Drain the beans and save
the liquid. (Bean broth soup is very good.) Add the beans to the pot of
sauce. Put the fluffy rice on a large deep platter, make a well in the
center of it. Pile the bean mixture in the middle, and serve forth
piping hot, with crusty corn bread and cooked greens and sweet, sweet
My Nana, born in St. Louis,
Missouri, made red beans and rice of that style. It was made on a
Monday, but preparations began on Sunday. After Sunday Dinner, which was
set to table about 2 in the afternoon and lasted a couple of hours
("dinner" being the main meal of the day, not to be confused with
"supper," a light evening meal), a big pot of small red beans would be
set to soak overnight. The ham bone would be put in a stock pot with a
large round onion and a good handful of garlic teeth, all finely
chopped. Some bay, rosemary, chopped celery, and Hawaiian chili peppers
also would be tossed in. This would simmer most of the night. In the
morning, the beans would be set to simmer until tender. They would then
be drained and added to the stock pot. While they were simmering, the
pork butt would be cut into 1"x1"x1" chunks, and braised in a skillet
of drippins. When the beans were just tender, the meat and a couple of
cans of stewed tomatoes were added and they were cooked a bit more. Then
the contents of the stock pot were stirred into the beans. The ham bone
went to the dogs. In Nana's house, the rice always was served
separately. You put rice in a bowl, and then ladled the red beans over
I guess everyone
must have his or her favorite starchy or otherwise solid and
rib-sticking salad that is easily amenable to being carted about the
countryside to picnics, ball games, church socials, school potlucks,
etc. It should be able to withstand a variety of temperatures and long
waiting in the back of a station wagon or VW bus before being served,
and it must still be good despite the fact that a sizable quantity of
sand has been kicked into it and the volley ball landed in it once. It
must also go well with deviled eggs, canned black olives, chicken salad
sandwiches (even if they were sat on), lukewarm beer, and watermelon. It
should taste equally good eaten off a paper plate or out of a tin
Sierra Club cup," and it should be of a consistency that will allow you
to eat quantities of it quickly with a flimsy plastic. A combination
bean salad nicely meets all these criteria.
I don't like to use canned beans (too expensive), but they will make an ok version of the following recipe.
Combination Bean Salad
any combination of beans you like—kidney, tiny black, large lima,
garbanzo, pink, pinto, etc. I also like to add green stringbeans and
yellow wax beans if they are available. Cook each kind of bean
separately, for they each have a character of their own and ask for
different cooking times. When they are tender but not mushy, drain and
rinse. Be sure to save the cooking water for soup. The green and yellow
beans should be cooked to still be quite crisp and fresh tasting, not
Put all the beans into a large
bowl that will allow more room for tossing. Add a large quantity of
minced purple onion, a good amount of chopped celery (this shouldn't be
too large, but it should definitely be distinguishable), and some
shoestrings of bell pepper. Over this sprinkle a big splash of a very
zesty dressing or marinade. I like to use something like the following.
a quart jar mix equal amounts of olive oil and vinegar. Add a lot of
very finely minced garlic (AT LEAST 3 or 4 teeth for each cup of
liquid), a bit of sugar, a splash of white wine, salt and pepper to
taste, and your choice of good herbs. I add about a teaspoon of celery
seeds, a bit of dry mustard, and some horseradish. Shake all vigorously
for a bit and then pour over the beans. Toss gently and refrigerate. I
prefer to never serve this salad unless it is at least twenty-four hours
old. Stir it occasionally to keep the marinade from settling to the
This is a fine salad to take on a picnic and goes well with the ubiquitous barbecue.
I do love a good barbecue, but I guess my idea about this method of cooking is quite different from most people's.
enjoy squatting by a pile of glowing coals when out in the wild and
woolly, carefully turning the chepati on its flat, heated stone. The
smells that arise from the blackened pot, the savory taste of that
sizzling pungent stew, perchance containing a bit of game as you
accompany it on its way with soft, warm chunks of the flat bread and
cups of hot strong coffee, and the songs: on nights like this the
greatest of recording stars couldn't hold a candle to us.
a fine shish-kebob: tender chunks of lamb, well marinated and threaded
on a skewer, then held over the coals till just right and eaten while
yet so hot your tongue is quite blistered—and that can only be repaired
with good cool beer. Shish is perhaps barbecuing at its best. . . well,
if you forget about freshly grilled lake trout, caught at dawn in a
chill Sierra lake, wrapped in bacon, cooked to a delicate crispness, and
consumed with hot and heady sourdough biscuits and of course, the
elixir of that battered pot. But somehow, the magic of outdoor cookery
is totally lost for me when it is accomplished with an electric charcoal
starter in a chrome-plated, enamel-decorated, rotisserie-operated
$129.97 special, complete with matching fireproof gauntlet. All this to
produce hamburgers? I would much rather use Puff. I spent $400 on a
professional piece of kitchen equipment and I'll be damned if I am going
to forsake it for a decorator-colored, cast-aluminum bubble
precariously balanced on a tripod.
beans and pole beans, wax beans, Italian beans, broad beans, all the
myriad fresh beans are wonderful, cooked just about any way you can name
except dead. And totally dead, murdered even, is how this poor legume
was wont to be served until very recently. I prefer all these fine
tasties cooked lightly, with oodles of garlic, a bit of bacon, and salt
Or with a bit of olive oil and
basil. But never, never ever kill them. Let them give you their light,
crisp, personable selves. They will be a delightful addition to any
meal. Well, probably you wouldn't want to serve them at a ladies'
luncheon along with the meringue syllabub.