Friday, April 13, 2007

"Lost Recipes - Meals to Share with Friends and Family" by Marion Cunningham - Ham and Bean Soup

Date I made this recipe: April 12, 2007

Lost Recipes – Meals to Share with Friends and Family by Marion Cunningham, author of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 0-375-41198-4
© 2003
Recipe: Ham and Bean Soup – p. 22

People, many of us talk about cooking as a form of therapy for the body, mind and soul. In this case, with this particular recipe, we’re basically talking “therapy therapy” as in I needed to exercise demons regarding the lunch selections during my grade school years at Sacred Heart Catholic School.

For some inexplicable reason, the same ladies who cooked delectable lunches for the nuns and the parish priest (and I should know this since I was a student server…and sometime sampler of their food), were completely and utterly unable to create delectable lunches for what had to be no more than 200 students every day.

As an example, spaghetti and sauce (we were way too early in the game to call macaroni “pasta”) consisted of watery noodles with an equally watery sauce consisting of blobs of tomatoes, salt and pepper. All soups, and I mean all soups, consisted of some sort of legume (again, no such thing as a tomato bisque in our day), carrots, onions and celery (if we were lucky) and water. Lots and lots of water.

And so people, corn soup consisted of group up corn that sank to the bottom of the bowl…and water. Pea soup consisted of ground up peas…and water. Bean soup, the most hideous of the group consisted of beans…and water.

Now, I don’t know about your grade school dining experience, but when I was growing up, there were children starving in Africa and China every day and so there was no such thing as a) not taking the lunch presented or b) not finishing every morsel. I should note that this was the 60’s during Vatican II (the Catholic Church’s version of the Hippie Movement) which sent the whole church into a tizzy. My nuns started with the full-blown uniform (those huge, hanging rosary beads were used as bolos to take down wayward children) and ended up in polyester street clothes sporting ridiculously short hair and a permanent mark on their foreheads where the veil used to be. So…there were issues.

And so if a student opted for hot lunch that day, that child received the gloppy excuse for macaroni and tomato sauce, period, no discussion.

Similarly, there were dire, and I mean dire, consequences, for not finishing the meal. You think Oliver Twist or Jane Eyre had it bad? Hardly. If Sister Rita Celeste (a name we hissed when we said it) saw that you weren’t finishing your meal, she force fed you until you practically choked it. I will never forget one poor second grader in my brother’s class who couldn’t finish her meal. My God, she was wailing and crying as Sister force-fed her until finally sister finally gave up (something she rarely did) and stormed away (on her broomstick, or maybe that wooden paddle she used). Since I worked in the lunchroom, I went over, took the bowl and told the poor thing to scram. Older students, like me, quickly learned to flush the contents we couldn’t and wouldn’t eat in the nearby bathroom in order to avoid a similar fate.

And so, as I said, it was time to exercise some demons, and when I spied Marion Cunningham’s recipe for Ham and Bean soup, I decided it was time. I also needed to get rid of some Easter ham so the whole thing worked out well.

I must admit to raising the eyebrows when I saw that the recipe contained only onion, ham, beans…and water, but the addition of the Dijon mustard closed the deal. And, no pun intended, thank God for that!

Ham and Bean Soup – serves 4
1 pound (about 2 cups) Great Northern Beans, soaked overnight and drained (yields 6 cups)
2 to 3 onions, chopped (about 2 ½ cups)
2 cups cut-up ham or smoked pork butt
¼ cup Dijon mustard (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the beans, onions and ham pieces in a large soup pot. Pour in enough cold water to cover the beans by 1 ½ inches and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to simmer, removing any scum that rises to the surface. Simmer for about 2 hours, or until the beans are tender. Add more water if needed.

Stir in the mustard, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Skim off any fat that rises to the top and serve.

No comments: