Time to Get a Pot of Beans Going
Yesterday, January 6, a son called and told me to go watch the news.
I went to the internet. No television here.
Mob pandemonium was what I saw happening at the U.S. Capitol.
I sat stunned, watching. Then I awakened my husband from a nap, saying, “Jimmy, you need to see this.”
During the afternoon, I kept a check on the news, praying off and on. I asked God to heal the hearts of the American people and give all of us Your plan for this country.
Next, I pulled out a bag of dried pintos from the pantry. It’s what I knew how to do. I started picking through beans to eliminate small rocks. Then the beans would soak in water overnight.
What would the women of the 1800s have done, after hearing about an upheaval in their country? My guess is that it might involve a pot of beans.
My mama definitely would have started rinsing and soaking a pot of beans.
The thing about beans is that the cook can control something—at least the heat on the stove. Beans and a pan of cornbread could get Mama through an argument, wartime troubles, money issues, and she could feed everyone in the house.
Many of my favorite memories are connected to good smells from the kitchen. That’s where Mama, wearing an apron, created the day-to-day meals.
Country food, pure and simple. She spoke through her food. And her big family understood. The older girls helped their younger siblings. A constant stream of open chatter, always going.
Speaking of cooking and the kitchen, I was given an air-fryer this Christmas. Not quite sure how it all works yet, but I’m determined to learn. I’ve cooked three things, so I already see its potential. My favorite, thus far, is chicken. I’m wading into it slowly. Not like I do with a pot of beans where I’m in comfortable and familiar territory.
I have two pots that make the old ways easy. I cannot give up good pots or how I was raised nor the love of the flag or the constitution. And yet, I’m trying to stay open to a new way of cooking food. Just as long as I don’t have to sacrifice good taste. That’d be like giving up the way I talk.
I smile and recall a young man who’d followed my sister-in-law and me around for fifteen minutes in New York City one time. When confronted, he said, “I just want to hear the two of you talk, that’s all. Where are you from?”
He figured we were from somewhere in the South but didn’t know which state.
And because we’re from the South, we cannot abandon our sound. We grew up making sounds certain ways. Guess it’ll go to the grave with us. About as possible to ditch an accent as leaving a family dog behind when moving to a new location. You take it with you. It’s part of you.
My sister-in-law and I listened to exchanges between people in New York City. What we heard was pretty serious talk. Not much teasing or absurdity, which is a part of the air we’ve always breathed.
Manners, the South, traditions, food, accent—it all went to the Big Apple with us. That means if we were stressed, we might start looking for a diner where they’d serve something we recognize, something like a bowl of beans and cornbread.
For us, beans and cornbread go together like mashed potatoes and gravy, like peanut butter and jelly.
When stressed, I’m not much interested in the exotic food. I want what reminds me of home. That might be scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, or beans and cornbread.
I didn’t grow up eating out. I grew up eating in. Cooking was an everyday affair at our house. Still true for my husband and me.
I am grateful to the women in my history who had ways to cope with the unknown and ways to cook delicious food.
So this morning, I’ve had beans at a low boil for three hours. Almost time to focus on pulling the golden cornbread from the oven.
Beans and cornbread—it’s the way I’ll entertain family and friends when the protests and riots ease up, when the coronavirus goes away.
Meanwhile, we struggle through, trusting God. We thank Him for taking care of us during these strange times.
Stay warm and God bless,
P.S. Two days later, Saturday, Jan 9, 2021. We are headed for Fayetteville, Arkansas, to help get equipment and grandson from a rehabilitation hospital. It’s time for him to go home in Harrison, Arkansas.
And tonight, when we get back home, my husband will have beans and cornbread with a touch of pepper sauce.
Beans and cornbread, comfort food.
Cooked and photographed by Pat Durmon, January, 2021.
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