Around August of this year, we decided that we were going to eat beans once a week this year to save money on groceries.
The pot of beans has varied each week. We’ve had purple hull peas and cornbread many nights. Also, I’ve previously posted about how wonderful I find a certain bean soup mix from Bob’s Red Mill. It is a great last minute bean option, because the beans are tiny and cook quickly. Sometimes we have lentils, which also cook fairly quickly. Other times the beans soak overnight and cook all day in the crockpot.
Almost every time I make beans, I remember this funny bean soup story from my childhood.
When I was growing up, we ate beans a lot, which could account for the fact that my brother now despises them.
But somehow, I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of cooking with beans OTHER than the 13 bean soup mix plus packet of seasoning that my mother made when we were kids. My mother is really a wonderful cook, now. But when she was putting food on the table 7 nights a week for a family of five, she would be the first to tell you that she was just trying to get through the day.
We ate the same 8 meals over and over again.
Spinach pie, 13 bean soup, kraft macaroni and cheese with frozen fish sticks, sweet and sour chicken (neon red sauce) with canned pineapple and rice, spaghetti, chicken spaghetti, tacos, and on special occasions, slow cooked brisket with potatoes and carrots. Sometimes Mother made Bisquick biscuits to go with the brisket.
Iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing was always an option as well.
On Monday nights, we had Young Life leaders over for dinner before they went with my parents to club. (My dad worked for a para-church ministry called Young Life while we were growing up, which is why we had little money for groceries.)
After dinner, until we were old enough to stay alone, a babysitter who loved our little brother, but hated Anna and I would come over. She would play with Peter for the entire evening while Anna and I cleaned the kitchen and were then sent up to bed.
At least that’s how I remember it.
One night, Mother and Daddy couldn’t be there at all for some reason, so she made the beans early and told me to keep an eye on them and serve them up when everyone arrived.
With Mother gone, the group of dear friends who came to eat on Mondays, felt emboldened to inform me that the beans were not their favorite. In fact, they really didn’t like beans at all.
They had been politely choking them down for years at this point. I’m not sure what we did for dinner that night, but I remember that we laughed long and hard about the beans. Maybe Anna whipped something up, as she was prone to do when Mother was away. Her longing at a very young age for a little more creativity in our cuisine manifested itself often in a kitchen covered in flour and splattered with mashed potatoes.
I later told Mother that she could never make beans again on Monday night.
I think that’s why I probably make beans now on Tuesday nights. Subconsciously, I just can’t serve them on Mondays. I also rarely serve them to a crowd.
But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to eat them.
Here’s this weeks’ version of bean night!
Rosemary White Bean Soup
1 pound dried white cannellini beans
4 cups sliced yellow onions (3 onions)
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large branch fresh rosemary (6 to 7 inches)
2 quarts chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, cover the beans with water by at least 1-inch and leave them in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Drain.
In a large stockpot over low to medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Add the drained white beans, rosemary, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the beans are very soft. Remove the rosemary branch and the bay leaf. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.
I served these with cornbread.