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Pass the Pinto Beans, Please

Pass the Pinto Beans, Please

Have you ever walked into the kitchen and been taken over with the smells of a pot of pinto beans on the stove and golden-brown cornbread just coming out of the oven? 

Maybe it’s a memory from the past or it happened a few days ago. For me, it’s both! Growing up around great cooks, it occurred often. I realize that people eat beans around the world; however, I believe that we have our own culinary and hospitality twist in the south. 

The perfect bean recipe is important, the right high oven temperature is important for the cornbread and then the special additions must be considered. Chopped onions are a common garnish for the top of your beans and having the right Chow Chow relish can make all the difference in the world. There are many recipes and over time, if you are lucky enough to try several, you will settle on a favorite. 

Fall get togethers often feature food, I was recently invited to attend Ken and Laura Welborn’s annual gathering before the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival.  Pinto beans are the featured entrée. Laura follows a more traditional recipe that includes the addition of a ham hock for added flavor. 

Cornbread was prepared three different ways and there were at least three Chow Chow relishes available. Without a doubt the best Chow Chow was made and brought by Margie Roberts. She said she mixed graded cabbage, onions, green, red and yellow sweet peppers with a small hot pepper, “just enough hot to let you think it might be there”. Then add a little salt, sugar and white vinegar and when it’s all stirred together, put it in a half gallon mason jar and refrigerate, no heat required. It will last up to three months, that is if you don’t eat it all in the first week.  

Someone brought Sorghum Cane Molasses which was tasty on a piece of cornbread. Someone else brought Molasses Cookies which are heavy in texture and have a chewy taste from the past that makes you want to travel back in time. The conversations were pleasant and everyone seemed to have a great time. We did not have steak, hamburgers, hotdogs or lobster. We enjoyed the humble and gracious Pinto Bean. Southern hospitality at its best.   

On Sunday, I was at a covered dish family gathering. There were all sorts of fine looking food that I knew very well was going to taste great. A few people were running a little late due to the distance of their drive. But when they arrived and opened the back of their SUV a large crock pot was retrieved. It was carried in such a way that you knew it was still hot. As they got closer to the table to set their covered dish, one of the guest said, “I know what that is, it’s Pinto Beans and that’s my favorite”. Well sure enough she was right. A big hot pot of pinto beans and a large tray of cornbread. 

It was a fine gathering! It was good to see everyone and there is always some food left over in case you want to take something home; however, the pinto beans were all eaten. There were a few conversations about memories of pinto beans and the good old days. 

Well, for me, this week has joined the list of the good old days. A week that I witnessed the power of southern hospitality brought to life by a rehydrated bean and the value of companionship. 

Pass the Pinto Beans and please don’t forget the Chow Chow. 

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