I’m not Southern though at times I try to make that claim.
My dad and his family are from Arkansas. In one quick Google search Arkansas is listed in the South by the US Census but Wikipedia calls it the Midwest. Having lived there a few times in my youth, I’m going with South.
With mama’s family moving to California before I was born we spent more time visiting dad’s side of the family in Arkansas. I had my second birthday with my paternal grandparents as I was living with them while my mom was in seminary.
Many Arkansans have a gentler southern accent and there’s a strong tie with the food served in the mid?-South.
I wasn’t in the kitchen much growing up but I can make a good pot of pinto beans, cornbread, and sweet tea. Add pecan pie to that list.
As far as I know, my grandparents had a bowl of beans on their table every day. EVERY day. It was the side dish that went with everything. Supper might be ham, greens, corn and pinto beans. Or, roast beef, potatoes, carrots and pinto beans. Get the idea?
I grew up having beans and rice (white) for supper on a regular basis. It was one of my favorites. Maybe that’s why I paid attention when granny was cooking them.
I don’t have the ability to move around the kitchen getting a meal together and on the table with a house full of people. I can’t tick of things in my head I need for the evening meal like mama could.
I married a man who grew up with a mom from New York cooking things I’d never heard of. Lentil soup? I was taught to try what your hostess offered but It was the most tasteless soup I’d ever eaten.
Even though I don’t have the ability of many of the women in my family, I always feel a little closer to those women when I’m cooking our traditional foods.
I rinse the beans like mama did looking for the tiny rocks that apparently use to be show up in bags of beans. I think they do better at packaging these days.
I let them soak at least an hour because I rarely remember to do it overnight. I cover them well with water and give them a healthy salting and bring the water to a boil. This was how granny did it so she wasn’t watching the pot all day.
There’s still plenty of watching to do. Once it boils I turn it to simmer and cover partially with the pot’s lid. I also set the time for 20 minutes because the water will cook out quickly as it continues on a low boil.
This will be done, along with adding more salt and a spoonful of sugar (again, Granny), several times over the next few hours. I taste test each time. You can add more salt but you can’t take it out.
The first time I made beans and rice for supper for my husband he asked where the meat was. I may have made it for a meal less than a handful of times after that and probably when my brother lived with us.
Food isn’t something our kids will connect with. They know their dad is a big meat eater and cooks steak better than anyone. They will think more of things he makes and maybe the Toll House pan cookies I make.
Our daughter and son will be more likely to think about the vacations we took and adventures we had. And that’s okay.
I’ve handed down plenty of family stories to them and we’ve created many of our own.
I cook a pot of beans when we have chili or I make a Mexican dish. And when I do, I feel that connection with the generations before me and I smile.