Welcome friends...thanks for coming by. We're seeking beauty in all of creation... in our faith and our families; our art and our music; our crafts and kitchens, and even in our own backyard. We'll share a poem or a recipe, a picture or a memory; maybe a dream of how we wish our life could be. And though we acknowledge that the world can be harsh, we're keeping it pleasant in our little corner; endeavoring to keep the words from the Book of all Books: ...Whatsoever things are lovely; think on these things.

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Photo: Bee and thistle: Taken high in the Cascade Mountains where there is a bee buzzing on every thistle. by Debora Rorvig

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Guess we'll have to eat beans..."

Powder-monkey crew in the Olympic National Forest...OSU Archives
 Mom and Dad got married during the Great Depression. They were as poor as church-mice. Mom was a farmgirl and Dad was working up in the woods as a cook in the CCC Camp. When the CCC bosses got wind that dad had secretly married, he was fired. The Civilian Conservation Corp was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. They hired young unmarried men to do unskilled manual labor for $30 a month; of which $25 was sent home to their parents. You'll never convince me that this workforce was unskilled! Every time I travel the Mount Baker Highway, snaking it's way up some 3500 feet above sea level to Mount Baker, I think of my Dad...and I am proud. The road was hewn into the side of steep mountains with tunnels blasted through granite rock, and it's bridges traverse deep-cut canyons with the wild Nooksack River tumbling over boulders below. This backbreaking work was not for the weak or the timid. It involved dynamite, cutting down old growth stands of fir trees with cross-blade-saws, and working on dizzying precipices in the harshest winter blasts.

After Dad was let go, my parents did many things to try and eke out a living during those lean Depression years. Dad worked in lumbercamps, picked apples, and even did some prize-fighting. Mom took in ironing, was a housekeeper for rich folks (even cleaned a mortuary), and worked in canneries preserving fish and fruit. (And that's only a few of the jobs they did!) Back then there was no negotiating for better pay or for medical benefits or for vacation time. If you were lucky enough to find work...you did it for whatever they offered; and you were grateful. You worked hard. Real hard. We have no idea.

Anyway, by the time I came along in the fifties, the folks were doing better. Mom had a good job at the County Court House and Dad was grading lumber at Bloedel-Donovan's lumbermill on the shores of Lake Whatcom. We weren't rich by any means, but compared to those early years; things were pretty good. We still however, lived paycheck to paycheck; and as you know if you've ever lived paycheck to paycheck...the slightest hiccup in your budget can upset the whole darned apple cart! So when our car broke down or the pump for our water well broke down (as it often did) Dad would grin at Mom and say, "Guess we'll have to eat beans!" My folks knew how to live cheap.

Now to my parents...eating beans meant that you were broke. Not that they didn't like beans...it was just that if we had to eat beans, it was because we couldn't afford meat. So from time to time...we ate beans. But most of the time, Mom managed to find the cash to buy a ham-bone or a slab of bacon to throw into the pot.

These days, eating beans is fashionable. They call them 'legumes' and praise the benefits of eating low-fat and high in protein while saving the planet by reducing our carbon footprint by eating vegan. (As though this generation were the first to have cooked and eaten a bowl of beans! How narcissistic!) Now I do believe in living healthy...low fat and reducing my carbon footprint...I really do! But I have to smile when I think of what Dad would say if I invited him over for a bowl of my bean soup. I'm sure he'd look across the table at me with a wry grin and say,
"Broke? Guess we'll have to eat beans!"

Bean with Bacon Soup

1 lb. great northern beans, soaked in water overnight--you could buy canned beans, but we're talking economy and home cooking here...so don't be such a pansy...use the real stuff!

1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, chopped
2 cans vegetable broth--or make your own broth. I'm sure chicken or beef broth would be tasty in this soup!
3 cups of water, or enough to cover beans
1 8-oz pkg Trader Joe's uncured turkey bacon, fried and crumbled into pieces-or live dangerously and toss in a hambone or a slab of real fried bacon! If you're broke or vegan, omit the meat.
Salt and Pepper to taste
A few shakes of Old Bay Seasoning--this is my new favorite seasoning. I dunno what's in it, but I've been adding it to almost everything I cook lately, and it's fantastic.

Wash and soak the beans overnight, then rinse. Chop the veggies, mince the garlic. Put the beans into a large pot and add enough broth and water to cover the beans. Add fried bacon, veggies, garlic, and seasoning.  Bring to a rolling boil, skimming off any foam. Reduce heat and simmer for a couple of hours...until the beans are soft and the broth has thickened. (The thicker the better, I always say. It's hard to tell whether my soup is soup, or just beans and meat. I like it that way.) Salt and pepper to taste.

Cornbread with lots of butter is the best accompaniment to this meal.



ellen b. said...

Depression or on rations. Yep beans have an elevated rap place in society now! That looks like a real tasty recipe!

Linda O'Connell said...

Ahh, you took me way back. I love beans, and cornbread slathered in butter. It is a comfort food. I really enjoyed this post.

farmlady said...

Isn't it interesting that we have embraced the kind of food that was considered "poor" food in the 30's and 40's?
Thanks for reminding us that beans and cornbread are still on of the best foods around.
Nice history of you family too.


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