>I used to hate beans and rice with a passion.
It seemed boring and lacked what I needed as a kid to be considered an exciting meal. [Which was either chicken nuggets, pizza and french fries…]
Now my mom, bless her heart, would generally buy some Popeyes chicken to go along with it, just to make us happy. I never fully appreciated the means of a hearty portion of beans and rice.
My mom, as most southerners who cook beans and rice, cook it down with some beef sausage or pork sausage. Sometimes incorporated in the beans, other times served on the side.
It’s only in the past couple of years that I have begun to regain my roots of this soulful dish and the history it has with my people.
It is a tradition in the South, mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi, that you eat beans and rice on Mondays.
I was confused as to why Monday constituted a day for this simple, but hearty meal.
I recently bought this “soul food” cookbook that has some pretty decent things, but it was the story of why we eat beans and rice on Mondays that caught my attention.
Apparently, it’s due to the meal you eat on Sunday – which consists of many things cooked with lots of fat — but mainly, a ham. The ham fed the whole family. Sort of your typical “meat, taters, veggies and bread” Sunday meal.
When the meal was finished, you’d take what is called the hambone – which is exactly what it sounds like.
You take the hambone and submerge it in a big ole’ pot of red beans (or kidney beans). I reckon’ depending on if you’re cooking with dry beans or canned, you still need to cook them for a while.
Dry beans take a while unless you soak them in water for an extended amount of time.
So, you have your beans and your hambone cooking on a low heat all throughout the night and into the next day. Anybody who loves things cooked low and slow knows the goodness of this science. The juices from the ham and the flavor of the bone incorporate into the beans, filling them with that good salty pork flavor.
There ya have it.
Beans and rice on Mondays.
Now, these days, I don’t have the time to cook beans that long, so I buy canned kidney beans.
I saute’ some onions, garlic and pork sausage in a skillet till the onions have caramelized a bit.
I drain most of that goopy liquid from the can of beans and dump them into a decent sized pot.
I fill it with water till the beans are slightly covered. Then I add the onions, garlic and sausage.
Lately, I’ve been buying some raw bacon ends from a local market and cooking that down with the beans as well.
I mean, it’s bacon. You don’t have to say anything to justify it’s part in this meal.
We don’t typically eat a huge ham on Sundays here in the Harrod-Casper household, so bacon does the job just fine.
I add some hot sauce, **tony’s, salt, pepper, and the usual barrage of whatever it is you like to taste.
I let simmer till the beans have soaked up all the water [typically about an hour — depending on how much you’re cooking] and are a bit mushy when stirred. This is how I like them, anyways.
Make some cornbread. [which could also go several ways.]
Boil some rice and voila.
I want to make this a tradition with my family, someday. I want to learn to make them good and I want to appreciate the value of this cheap, simple and flavorful meal.
Every country has their version of this, and this is mine — so I’m learning to hold it near to my soul.
After all, the food you make is a reflection of who you are. It’s spiritual and most likely, tastes really, really good.
**Tony’s is short for “Tony Chachere’s”.
It’s a spice mix I’ve used my entire life. I guess it’s considered a cajun seasoning, but I put it on mostly everything. You can find it at any grocery store in the South, and so I’ve found, any grocery store in Oregon. Including Safeway and Fred Meyer. **