Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pinto Beans and Politicking

Nothing tastes more like home to me than a steaming bowl of pinto beans and hot cornbread slathered with melted butter. Born and raised in rural West Virginia, I spent many winter afternoons sharing this meal with my grandparents, Emery and Birdie Mae.

My grandmother Birdie Mae dished up pinto beans from an iron pot she kept simmering for hours on the gas stove. The only seasoning she added was a slab of bacon or ham hock with salt and pepper. It was my grandfather Emery’s favorite meal.

Between bites of beans, Emery liked to talk about local and national candidates coming up for election. As soon as he started to speak, Birdie would shake her head with annoyance. “There he goes politicking again,” she’d say, wiping her hands off with a dish cloth and fleeing the kitchen.

Emery preferred lots of diced onion and crumbled cornbread in his bowl of beans. But pinto beans also taste delicious when garnished with sweet, tangy Southern Chow Chow Relish prepared from finely chopped green tomatoes, peppers and onions.

As a native West Virginian, pinto beans and cornbread are part of my Appalachian heritage. But no matter where you call home, a good bowl of pinto beans is a hearty meal that’s guaranteed to warm you up—body and soul.

Pinto Beans
How to prepare: Start with a 1-pound package of dried pinto beans. Dried beans must be soaked before they are cooked. Soak overnight, or use the quick-soak method. Overnight soak: Rinse beans well and cover with an inch of cold water. Soak beans overnight at room temperature. Quick-soak method: Rinse beans well, put in a saucepan, and cover with an inch of water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes, then cover and let stand at least 1 hour.
How to cook: Cover and simmer beans in water used for soaking. Check periodically, cooking until tender. Add water as needed. Season with a ham bone, a couple of minced garlic cloves or chopped onion, and salt and pepper to taste.
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup self-rising corn meal
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup shortening or vegetable oil
dash salt

Sift flour and add salt; stir in corn meal. Add eggs, milk and shortening or oil. Beat with electric beater until just smooth, about 1 minute. Do not overbeat. Pour into greased iron skillet and bake in hot oven at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Patricia Porter, Salt Rock, WV

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