Tuesday, May 15, 2018

LOOKING BEANS

For those of you who read other blogs (shocking concept, but…) the following is not, I repeat, not a rip-off of OldNFO’s remarkably great blog, or of his blog-post from 5-12-18, found at: https://oldnfo.org/2018/05/12/comfort-food/ I wrote this originally the day I posted my second post here, the first one I did all by my lonesome as a grown-up (yeah, right) blog author. So, parallel evolution of thought, so to speak. And to lighten the mood after Juvat’s rather furious discourse and all the darkness surrounding that post (which was a really great post, by the way) I offer you this…)


LOOKING BEANS

Ha! Fooled you, didn’t I? Here you thought it was another story about Kwajalein or something else completely fascinating, but, no. I’m going to talk about the lost art of Looking Beans (and other food related Lookings.)

My parents raised me to eat what I was served. No special ‘Children’s Food,’ no hotdogs, or mac and cheese when the parents are eating roast or something equally delicious. Nope. My parents raised me and my brothers on ‘adult fare’ and for that I am truly greatfull. It helped that my parents were really good cooks and my dad had an aversion to organ meats so I was spared the joys of kidneys or livers, except as part of Dirty Rice or something equally scrumptious (and never ever bovine innerds, just chicken or turkey, and never just ‘fried livers’ (bleh. I’ll cook chicken livers for my wife, I’ll even clean them and de-vein them, but eat them? No. Just no.) Good food. Like, oh, Gumbo, Grouper au Brennan’s, Dirty Rice, things like that. Tasty food (and that’s another story.)

But… Looking Beans? Beans? How can beans look, they have no eyes…

Back in the ancient days of food preparation, before there were processed foods that took over our lives, when one would go to a grocery store for the beginning of food, not already made dishes like some weird smorgasbord, people used to actually cook beans from raw. Oh, not talking about growing the beans from scratch, I’m talking about taking dried beans and making delicious cooked beans from them. Carefully gathered from the wilds of the local food store, in bags. Yes, those beans.

 
Not these bags of beans
from allcornhole.com
(a safe for work site, though your IT geeks might freak if they see it.)

 Nor

from RBandU.com
(potential bean-bag story in the future)

I mean, these bags of beans


 
(from free, non-copyrighted sites dealing with beans)


So, some farmer or farmers somewhere actually does the whole ‘growing’ thing, getting dirty and smelly and legumy. And said farmer or some other agri-worker harvests the legume pods (using really cool machines that will kill you quicker than anything) and the pods are carefully unrolled on the thighs of virgins.. wait, taken to a factory where the beans are removed from the pods and then packaged by weight into various bags, plastic or paper, or even barrels and buckets, along with some other things that aren’t so legumy (there’s that made up word again, I think there’s a rule that the third time makes it a real word.)(legumy)

The adventurous food preparer, as stated before, must brave the hordes of zombies (been to Wally-world lately?) or shoppers or whatever, and secures a bag of one’s favorite dried beans (pinto being my favorite) and goes home and proceeds to immediately chow down on them, no? No. First must come the sorting of the beans, also known as Looking. 

Get the bag of beans (or an appropriate scoop of them from a larger container) and get a large pan, not the one you’ll be cooking in, and place it on the counter or your lap or on top of the sleeping dog or whatever. Open the bag, if you already haven’t done it yet. Now take some of the beans and put them in your hand. Oh, look, beans. Anything funky? No? Drop sorted beans into the pan. Get more beans, Look more beans, put looked beans in the pan. Repeat, repeat, repe.. Wait, What The Hell Is That? A rock? Get rid of it. A twig? Get rid of it. A dead mouse? Get rid of all the beans. A mouse bean? Eh, get rid of it. Get the point? Looking beans is all about, well, looking at the beans and keeping only the beans. Good bean lookers can just basically slowly pour the beans through their fingers and catch and eliminate non-beans without really breaking stride. (Modern bags of beans tend to be much cleaner than those of 30 years, or definitely 40 years ago. Machine processing has some really great benefits.

Wow. Exciting. A whole article about checking to see whether there’s non-beans in a bag of beans. Woooooo. Well, not really. What this is all about is actually looking at unprepared food before picking it up.

 I Look Food. There, I said it. I look at the food in the store or on the plant and discard what isn’t food. Even before I look beans I look at the package of beans. I look milk for the expiration date and if the container is leaking. I look meat for its sale-by date and if it looks good (shiny rainbow pattern is not good, or too much gristle or fat or, well you get the drift. I look veggies and fruit, especially, to make sure I don’t get damaged or rotting stuff (to the point I’ll pick up a bag of potatoes and smell it for a rotting one and not get that bag.) 

Most especially, I Look Bacon. What I mean is I look through the little window on the back of the package for the most lean eating bacon I can find, or the most fat bacon for rendering into that best of cooking oils, bacon grease. Why Look Bacon? Because, Bacon. Bacon, bacon, bacon. BAAAACOOOON.
Bored yet? Wait. There’s a reason for all this. While I was cooking bacon on Sunday, I thought about my fellow shoppers. Have you ever noticed them, I mean really noticed them. Have you ever seen people who just grab the first thing they come across? Like bacon, just grab the first package on the shelf? Grab the first head of lettuce or the first apple or whatever? What do they do when they go home with that unlooked container of strawberries, just eat whatever without picking out the moldy squashed ones and washing the sand off? Have you ever wondered just what was or wasn’t going through someone’s head who isn’t aware of basic things about their surroundings, like, you know, what the pre-food looks like before they buy it? How, unfun their life must be?

I’ve even talked to my younger friends about Looking Beans, just looking beans, not all the philosophical garbage I'm rambling on about now, and they look at me like I suddenly started speaking Mandarin. Crazy, isn’t it.
 
 
TASTY BEANS

Oh, by the way, after you Look Beans (pinto beans for me, thanks,) put them in a big pan and rinse them, fill pan with water (with the beans still in it) and let them soak overnight and add more water (if you rinse them first you can keep the bean-soak water which adds flavor, but do rinse) before adding salt and that meaty bone from the ham you’ve kept in the freezer and some pepper, too. Cover, and bring to boil and then reduce to simmer, stirring occasionally and cook until the beans are soft and taste cooked (and add more salt if needed) and what ham was on the bone has fallen off (cut the ham into smaller pieces and discard the bone.) Keep enough water in the pot to make a good thick 'bean liquor.' Serve in a bowl with cornbread on the side (real cornbread, southern style)(see below) and butter. Reheat for a good meal, or cold on bread for a snack (yeah, I’m weird) and freeze what you don’t want to eat right away. Make chili with the remaining beans. Make chili dogs with the remaining chili, if you bean chili, that is. One day makes most of one week’s food (I have a problem cooking in small amounts.)
 
 
 

SOUTHERN CORNBREAD the way my daddy taught me

Okay, I’m a cornbread snob. Here’s the nitty-gritty on ‘real southern cornbread.’ First, get a well seasoned cast iron skillet (the small one, not the large one or the mongo one you go camping with)(What? You don’t have cast iron? The shame!)(see below-below.) Get a decent self-rise cornbread mix, or mix your own using just cornmeal and flour and rising stuff (read the damned recipe on the bag, okay?) Okay, now you’re ready to cook cornbread. Put the skillet in the oven and turn it on. Yes, heat the oven and the skillet at the same time. Now, go mix your cornbread but do not use oil. Use 1 stick of butter, special-like. Ding, the oven’s heated your well-seasoned skillet, now toss the stick into the pan while it’s in the oven. Let the butter melt in the pan in the oven. Finish mixing up all the other ingredients, pull the skillet out of the oven with the now smoking melted butter and pour the butter into the mixing bowl (oh, yeah, use a metal bowl, not plastic or glass, oops) and place skillet on a trivet or on the stove and finish mixing up the mix. Pour the mix into the still blazing hot pan (which makes a really good crust) and put the pan in the oven. Cook the appropriate time, pull pan out, slice the bread once while in the pan and check to make sure it’s cooked all the way through, if not put back in for 5 more minutes, repeat, eventually you’ll have flaming hot cornbread just ripe for butter to melt on. That, my friends, is ‘real southern cornbread.’ Do not use sugar. Damned Yankees.
 
 
CAST IRON

Like I have to tell you all to get cast iron. Seriously. Come on. Well, okay, take a brand new cast iron and toss it in the bbq on hot, burn all the stench out of it (which is why you cook it on the Barbie.) Grease with bacon grease or lard, inside and out, and cook it some more, repeat, some more, repeat on the inside some more. Let it cool, wash it with water and a paper towel. Fire up the inside oven and toss it in when you cook something else. Eventually you’ll get the inside of the pan the color of blackest shiniest night. That’s when you’re ready to cook with cast iron. Wash with water and a paper towel or a scrubby pad but no soap and not too hard. If something won’t come off, soak it first. If you screw up, start reseasoning all over again (seasoning being getting that glistening black surface on it.) But you all knew this, right?

44 comments:

  1. Wow! Our first in-depth beans and cornbread post. Those War of 1861 posts must have inspired you. Now I need to go seek real cornbread, which I haven't had in far too long.

    FWIW, The Missus Herself has, in the past, grown her own beans. I don't know what kind of beans they were, but they were delicious beans.

    Great post Andrew!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Missus Herself shows far more patience than I. Home growing beans. That's... digging in the dirt and other icky things... Bleh. I feel dirty enough from going to certain stores that start with the letter "W" that I always take a decon shower afterwards.

      Delete
  2. I find visiting certain stores to be annoying. Yep, mostly because of the clientele.
    My sister suggested visiting in the early morning because the annoying clientele aren't in the stores yet.
    So far it has worked out.
    And as good as this post is, the lack of mention of Navy beans is shockingly remiss.
    A long time ago I mentioned to my wife that certain foods should be served Navy Style.
    When she asked what that meant, I told her you need a large spoon, and the food should be delivered to the plate (tray) with enough speed to make an audible plop or whap sound.
    We who stood in numerous chow lines understand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Being of mostly southern birth, bland Navy beans were never in my repertoire. I've used them in a 7 bean soup, but never as themselves only. Red beans, black beans, kidney beans and pintos are more of what I've hankered for when 'beaning.'

      I find all stores annoying. Either you get the paycheck shoppers or the supplemental income shoppers or the geezer-home shoppers (that come on their very own bus) or the developmentally challenged shoppers (we call them UF students when we're really being mean...) As soon as one wave dies down, another shows up. There is no break, here. You just have to wade in with both elbows and hope not to get the 'funk of the day.' (I mean, this is subtropical Florida. That means it goes from okay to hot and back. Which means it requires the body to be washed at least every other day, and there are lots of people who think that the only time they need baths is when they get caught in the rain (yes, I've seen home-challenged people (bums) whip out bars of soap during rain storms.))

      Delete
  3. Cast iron is the way to go!
    I use my cast iron all the time & wash it with soap & hot water then dry it & put it away. I'd heard that using soap on cast iron will ruin it, I'm wondering how long that takes? I've got some that I've been washing for 30 years..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just don't scrub the dark goodness away, or let soapy water soak in it.

      Had a friend at an SCA event when he was cleaning in the kitchen get all proud that he scrubbed the cast iron to the bare metal, got rid of all the black sooty stuff. Didn't understand why half the camp wanted him dead. Idiot.

      Delete
  4. Home made baked beans (yes, 'looked beans') with real maple syrup and a good chunk of side bacon. YUM!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. Beans. Good for you (as long as there's some real meat protein in it to help those of us who have problems processing vegetable proteins, or don't process veggie proteins at all. (One of the nicest things my doc ever told me was I don't process veggie proteins, and I must eat meat products. Oh, darned. No tofu for me. Pass the bacon, please.)

      Delete
  5. Yup, but my style of corn bread is made with a quarter cup of honey, Arkansas style. From a mid who grew up tapping maple trees and drinking spruce tea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To each his own (shudder, shudder.)

      I have had sweet cornbread, it is good. It just isn't, to my taste buds, cornbread cornbread. If you know what I mean.

      Delete
  6. Is this a great blog or what? I mean it's got History, Historical fiction, Flying pics, Sea Stories, Politics, Rants, Raves, Horses, Cats, Dogs. The list goes on and on. Now we've got a cooking and shopping category. Who knew that beans would be an exciting story? Well...other than Andrew. And to include the proper technique for inspecting beans? Pure brilliance! I'll never inspect a bag of beans the same way again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've just opened a bag of beans and... cooked them... without... looking them? O M G!

      Yes, this blog is great, one minute you're waiting for the final stories of the Tiger crew, the next is a rant about subject-du-jour, the next some weirdo goes all Alton Brown... What's next? Tuna giving us travel tips?

      Delete
  7. I do know about Looking Beans. And we look the beans, and then pour 1 cup dry into 1 sterile hot quart jar, fill with hot water, add a packet of hot sauce, and can in the canner along with 6 buddy quarts. Volia! Instant canned beans. And they make
    great recipes including chili and an addition to cornbread!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, you actually know how to can. That is such a disappearing art. And a canner cooking recipe. If I had a son and you had an available daughter, I'd pack him up, ship him UPS and see if they'd get along. Oh, well.

      And yay for another person who likes real chili (made with BEANS!!!!!)

      Delete
    2. Well, don't cheer too soon. While I love LOVE my cast iron skillets, I do wash them with soap and hot water, occasionally do use an SOS pad on them to get the crusty bits off, then I rinse in hot water and put on the open flame to dry them, then apply a light, thin coating of oil. My pans are nice and shiny, and are very non-stick. DH's pan's, which have to be cleaned with NO SOAP AT ALL EVER!!! get hot water boiled in them, scrubbed with a bristle brush, rinsed and then dried over open flame and small amount oil applied. Mine look nicer. Thant's all I will say. :)
      And the fire department where I used to live educated me about cast iron care after I very carefully, and thoughly, cleaned their greasy skillets...boy, did I get hollered at...lol.

      I taught my son how to use a pressure canner so he can do his own "canned" beans. :)

      Delete
    3. I've found most stuff comes out with water in a still-hot pan, like take still hot pan to sink and hit it with a small amount of water, then wipe with paper towels. Sometimes the stainless scrubby pad comes out for tough chunks, and for flavored junk, yes, a little soap. But not with much elbow grease. If it won't come off from a light scrub, into the furnace it goes and the gunk gets burned off.

      My pans and pots are nicely grey on the outside and deepest-darkest space black on the inside. Other people have expressed envy at my pans and I have to tell them to use bacon and they can't borrow my pans.

      My wife introduced me to a pressure canner, but so far I've never done pressure cooking, as I have too much time on my hands. One of these days I need to experiment. One of these days...

      Delete
  8. "I think there’s a rule that the third time makes it a real word.)(legumy)"

    No, no, you've got it wrong. It's when three people use a new word that it becomes a real word.

    Ok, legumy. Now two people ( if you and I can be considered people ) have used the word, we only need one more to make it a real word.

    Oh, by the way, an outstanding post.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our noble host has set a high bar for outstanding posts. If I could only be as good as he is when I get to his age, I'll know I just shoved my big feet in my mouth again, didn't I?

      Thanks. Always have enjoyed talking to people, except for that whole stuttering, scared to talk to people, social awkward thing. Blogging and commenting on blogging is so much easier (and I can edit, unlike when I actually talk-talk.)

      Delete
    2. It's Methuselah I am. Aged and wise. (Well, aged anyway.)

      Delete
  9. I’ve looked a few beans.
    I just didn’t know there was a term for it.
    I’ve also dusted mushrooms, for they are grown in sanitized corral dust.
    Those, and similar tasks, are the mind numbing parts of food preparation.
    My most treasured culinary tools are the knives and the five different cast iron implements, some of which are older than I and have the surface to show it.
    Once more something has been learned on this blog.
    Preheating the pan for corn bread is now in the recipe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Legumy is now a word.
      It’ better than “be any”

      Delete
    2. Thank you for being our third.

      Yes, autocorrect, you have to keep an eye on it.

      Paul

      Delete
    3. Yep. When I grew up, potatoe had an 'e' at the end of it. Dan Quayle was correct in that respect.

      Delete
    4. What is truly sad is that me, being older than the hills, apparently, have actually had to teach people in the store how to snap string beans and shell peas, because the ones in the fresh produce don't look anything like what they see in the can or in the frozen bag. Looking beans is just the start of it.

      Looking is the term from my mom's side of the family, from Ohio. But I've used it all over the place, and people, especially 'rural' people, seem to speak the same language. (Mrs. Andrew, coming from actual Tennessee Hillfold, via Oak Ridge, knew the term, and looked beans, too.

      Must be a 'city folk' thing.

      Delete
  10. Replies
    1. "Be Any" works. Being in the South that's been invaded by the North and by the Stupid, sometimes both at the same time, Engrish is a second language here. Chinglish, Engrish, Streetlish, whatever. Actual American English? There are some areas where this is still spoken...

      (No, not being racist. Just kinda upset that there seems to be a whole population of people who grew up here that can barely speak some form of Pidgin English. What have we as a country done to ourselves?)

      Delete
    2. "Being in the South that's been invaded by the North..."

      As I recall, Confederate forces invaded the North before the Northern forces invaded the south.

      PLQ

      Delete
    3. And then, in the late 1900's, the Northern War of Population struck the Floridian South hard, with more waves of slathering, dimwitted tribes of "Yanquis" descending like the successive waves of Vandals and Visigoths upon Ancient Rome...

      Delete
    4. Well, when you are right, you're right. However, I must point that most of those "...waves of slathering, dimwitted tribes of "Yanquis" descending like the successive waves of Vandals and Visigoths upon Ancient Rome..." were New Yorkers. Altogether their own brand of slathering dimwits. Not to be confused with us other more pleasant people from northern states. Although, everywhere has its share of such as you mentioned.

      Paul L. Quandt

      Delete
    5. I don't think sweet cornbread is wholly a "Northern thing". My black friends (none of them refers to him- or herself as "African-American", so I say black, as do they) all prefer sweet cornbread. I think the Yankees adopted it after the large black exodus north. I prefer mine unsweetened.
      No need to cut cornbread to check doneness. Just whop it with the flat of a butter knife. If it sounds sort of hollow, you're there. You soon learn the right sound. You can check it with a toothpick, as I do with cakes, but sound will tell. I prefer to make my cornbread with bacon grease. While you're heating the oven, might as well make biscuits. It takes no time at all, & biscuits & beans is good, too.
      I have several cast-iron pieces, most of them in the family for decades, if not generations. I have a cornbread skillet, & should I catch anybody using it for anything else, I will fall on them from a great height. Using soap on cast-iron is a killing offense, & no Southern jury would dare convict, especially if there's a mother on the jury. If theres' a Southern grandmother, you may get a parade.
      I don't even cook tomatoes or other acidic foods in cast iron, but plenty of folks do with no problems. Diff'rent strokes. You say to-may-to, he says to-mah-to, I say may-ter.
      --Tennessee Budd

      Delete
    6. Paul, we got a fair splattering of all the states, including those from NYC (a state unto itself) and New Jersey, many who think they can vote in both places, and want to see us become them.

      Delete
    7. Tennessee Bud, I have eaten sweet cornbread, and it's okay. Just... not with soup or beans. Or as a base for cornbread dressing (from my wife's side of the family) or for cornbread and milk (take cold corn bread, chunk it into a glass or bowl, pour milk on it like it's a breakfast cereal, and, well, cornbread and milk.)

      Sound doesn't work so well when you're using a gluten-free flour. Checking for interior texture is about the only way I've found that works doing GF cornbread.

      As to corn-bread skillets, yes, I have two small skillets, one for everything else and one for cornbread only, along with a couple cornbread specific cast irons (one makes little corn cobs of cornbread, and one pan that is already divided into 6 or 8 slices. Cute, but I roll old school...)

      Tomatoes and other high-acid foods are for the stainless pans that my mother gave me that she got as a premium for buying a Kirby vacuum back in the '50s. Heavy, very heavy stainless pans, heavier than you can find in most stores today (even the expensive stuff.) If I buy a new pan, it must at least meet the weight and durability of that old stainless (only problem is some of the handle-nuts have rusted out, so I really need to get a friend to weld new nuts on some of the pots for handle attachments.)

      Mater and mayo sammiches. A sure sign that summer is here (before the days of fruit grown in Jupiter orbit being available all year long like it is today. Fresh, still warm from the sun tomatoes. Yum....

      Delete
    8. When I wrote New York, I, of course, meant NYC. As for New Jersey, they are but wantabe New Yorkers. On this coast, we have the same sort of problems with invaders from California.

      Paul

      Delete
    9. Ewwwww... Commifornians... Ewwwwww....

      Delete
  11. My first long-term girlfriend had this beautiful, old, YUGE cast-iron skillet that had been her Grandmother's.

    She could cook an entire meal for us in it, and it was killer.

    One day, in the process of showing her how 'domesticated' I'd become, I washed it.

    Not the recommended water-and-paper-towel method; Oh, Heavens no.....I scrubbed the snot out of that sucker with soap and an SOS pad.

    And that's the day I learned the full meaning of "Unintended Consequences"......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My parents went on a vacation one time and I was left all alone. Cooked up something in the cast iron Dutch oven, the one that my dad inherited from his grandmother, that had faithfully been cooking excellent Cajun food for over 90 years, and I proceeded to let it sit in the sink with soap for over a day. And they came home, and discovered it.

      After I got verbally lambasted, my father taught me the ancient rites of seasoning as I listed above. It took him over 4 days to get the proper level of seasoning back in it. I was only allowed to gaze upon the rites, not allowed to participate in them. No small animals were sacrificed, but I did have to ride shotgun with him as he went looking for actual pig-lard. Silence can be deadly, oh, so deadly.

      As mentioned in a comment somewhere above, one of my smuck friends did the same and couldn't understand why he wasn't praised and awarded by the cook for his diligent work. I think, if my memory works, he got it almost as shiny as stainless steel... Not a good day for him or anyone else within hearing range if they weren't wearing ear plugs.

      I assume that the skillet was recovered and brought back to life and continued to provide most excellent food, or was that the death knell of that relationship? (What you did was the equivalent of her taking an air-powered descaler to the paint job on your Supra, or rewiring your radios to their specifications. Each of us has our weird little kicks. Don't ever touch my helmet, unless a vehicle is about to crush it, my helmet, my precious, me and him have gone through much, mine, mine, my precious helmet...)

      Delete
    2. Oh, she was definitely pi$$ed off at me!

      I didn't thin a little 5-foot-nothing, 90lb soaking wet female could contain so much wrath over a skillet, but yeah, it was like her using a $400 Mituyo micrometer for a welding clamp...

      Took a while to get back in her good graces.

      Delete
    3. My wife had a dentist who apparently pissed off his 90lb wife and her 90lb girlfriend, and since this is all about cast iron, managed to punch the bottom out of a frying pan using, unfortunately, his head. Damn shame about the pan. Oh, and the dentist, too.

      Delete
  12. "Looking beans"? Black eyed peas, of course!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Proof, with a late entry, scores big!

      Hahaha!

      Delete
    2. If the peas had just listened...

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)