September 9, 2009

The Once and Future Beans

I've wasted a lot of time despising West Texas. I thought cowboy culture wasn't my thing, and maybe it isn't, but I feel like I can at least appreciate it more than before. There are fun things to do in this town, as mentioned in this long column, and Lubbock is full of honorable, hard-working folks. I decided to cowboy up and start supporting local tradition and heritage.

Mike and I went to the Ranching Heritage Center fundraiser where they staged Andy Wilkinson’s "Charlie Goodnight: His Life in Poetry and Song." The five inch stilettos I wore turned out to be very impractical for the walk across the dirt and grass to the seating area. And that's one thing a West Texas woman should never be, impractical. I should have worn my boots to keep from being bitten by ants.

I've been going over to my granddaddy's house once a week to watch old film reels from the 1950s of my dad's family and to see slides of the farm, family parties, and vacations. The family and the farming equipment look completely different, but it's pretty amazing how little the view has changed from around my folks' house in the last fifty years.

In the cowboy tradition, here's a recipe for baked beans worth a long trail ride: Once and Future Beans - the beans that will change your life. Although I've alluded to the fabulous recipe here, here, and here, the Once and Future Beans deserve a post of their own.

These beans are so simple, a cowhand could make them, but they do require some advance planning. First, you have to soak a pound of dried beans overnight, and then the beans themselves have to cook for 6-8 hours. Not a recipe you can be spontaneous about. There are basically only four steps after you soak the beans.
    Step 1: Chop 1 pound of bacon and cook over medium heat.
    Step 2: Add a chopped onion and a couple of chopped jalapeƱos. Cook until soft.
    Step 3: Stir in the tomato paste, dark brown sugar, and molasses.
    Step 4: Add the beans and soaking liquid, season, and cook for 6-8 hours.
Once and Future Beans Once and Future Beans
Once and Future Beans Once and Future Beans

These beans fill your home with the most wonderful aroma while they cook. Last time I made them, I left the house for a few hours and was fairly overwhelmed upon pulling into the garage, opening my car door, and catching the scent of the beans cooking in the house. Another time the smell wafting through the neighborhood attracted a dog to my garage door.

Once and Future Beans

Once and Future BeansServe them alongside some beef, chicken, barbecue, taters, or let them stand alone. I cannot overstate the greatness of this recipe. They'll be the hit of the party every time.


wendy v. said...

At the opening social for American Studies majors this week we played the guess-the-name-of-the-famous-American-person-on-your-back game (is there an official name for that?). I appropriately had Eli Whitney. One of my nameless West Texas friends didn't even know who that was. In his defense though he did live in Canada for much of his life.

Auntie said...

Grandmother would be so proud of you. She could wax poetic about Pinto Beans and their cultural significance to the American Southwest.

She had contempt, though, for lazy cooks who failed to properly season the pot. She would scrunch up her nose and sniff, "Hmm...just beans".

Dear niece, you should challenge Uncle to a Throwdown -- he cooks a mean bean.

Kimberly said...

That would be the Uncle that threatened to key my car with the message "I love your beans?" I'll take that challenge!

On the other hand, I am not so confident in the Tech vs. UT Throwdown this weekend. I expect our team to return in body bags.