Beans offer excellent nutrition and have achieved a unique place in American culinary tradition. More than 100 varieties of beans are cultivated in America, with most produced in Michigan, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado. Whether dry (kidney, navy, and pinto), or fresh (string/snap or wax), American farms yield 1,500,000 tons annually. Beans occupy places in American slang and fads, from "spilling-the-beans," to "bean-bag chairs", to "Beanie-Babies,®" and one bean dish is classic American.
BAKED BEANS: ORIGINS OF A CLASSIC AMERICAN DISH
Boston baked beans is a classic American dish consisting of navy beans cooked slowly with molasses and salt pork. Several historical sources report that early American colonists did not bake beans, and that slow cooking technique was Native American in origin and subsequently adopted by the New England colonists. Other scholars argue, however, that baked beans had long been a traditional Sabbath dish among North African and Spanish Jews, who called this food "skanah." They suggest that sea captains introduced the concept of baked beans to New England ports after long voyages along the coast of north Africa and the Mediterranean. Regardless of origin, recipes for baked beans are closely associated with the city of Boston, Massachusetts, where Colonial Puritan women baked beans on Saturday, to avoid cooking on the Sabbath, and served them for Saturday dinner and as left-overs for Sunday breakfast and lunch. So ingrained is the association between Bostonians and beans, that the city is sometimes known as "bean town." [3: 1]
Did You Know?
|THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
Such heaped-up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives. There was the doughty doughnut, the tender 'olykoek' and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, gingercakes and honeycakes...
Washington Irving, 1849 [3: 6]
AMERICAN BEANS DESCRIBED BY EARLY EXPLORERS
Peas they have, which the Natives call Asasentemmens and [these] are the same which in Italy they call Fagioli. Their beans are little, like a French bean, and are the same which the Turks call Garnances, and [this] kind of pulse they much esteem for their dainties
William Strachey, 1612 [3: 2]
DINE WITH ME TOMORROW
Since our arrival at [West Point] we have had a ham, to grace the head of the table; a piece of roast beef adorns the foot; and, a small dish of greens or beans decorates the center..... [The Cook has discovered] that apples will make pyes.
George Washington, 1779 [3: 3]
AMELIA SIMMONS AND THE FIRST AMERICAN COOKBOOK
The first American cookbook was written by Amelia Simmons in 1796. Her stuffed turkey recipe has changed little in over 200 years...
One pound of soft wheat bread, 3 ounces beef suet, 3 eggs, a little sweet thyme, sweet marjoram, pepper and salt, and add a gill of wine; fill the bird therewith and sew up, hand down to a steady solid fire, basting frequently with salt and water, and roast until a steam emits from the breast, put one third of a pound of butter into the gravy, dust flour over the bird and baste with the gravy; serve up with boiled onions and cranberry-sauce. [3: 4]
CHRISTMAS ON THE TRAIL WITH LEWIS AND CLARK
Lewis and Clark explored the American west for over two years. When their provisions ran out, they lived off the land. Both were extraordinary men, but poor spellers!
December 25th, 1805
We would have Spent this day in feasting, had we any thing either to raise our Sperits or even gratify our appetites, our Diner concisted of pore Elk, so much Spoiled that we eate it thro? mear necessity, Some Spoiled pounded fish and a few roots. [3: 5]
THE USEFUL KITCHEN AX
In New England lumber camps, Beans and corn meal were cooked with stew meat or soup bones, a relatively high fat dish. Sometimes camp cooks prepared bean porridge in quantity and set it outdoors to freeze. When needed for dinner, the first utensil the cook reached for -- was an ax. [3: 7]