Canning Legumes

Portrait of an Era

The diligent ladies here are manning (or womanning) the production line at Wisbech in Cambridgeshire in 1934. In my home, we eat canned green beans about once a week. A couple times a month, I’ll buy the fresh ones and spend an hour snipping the ends and chopping them into reasonable bite sizes, then simmering them in beef broth for several hours. They taste better, but it’s not really worth the labor or the four minutes it takes my men to consume them. We always eat the thicker Italian cut beans, as they are heartier and easier to stab. However, when the holidays roll around, we buy the French Style beans to make green bean casserole because America.

But these British lasses would never have celebrated Thanksgiving and probably never had a green bean casserole in their lives. In Texas, we don’t eat many casseroles; that’s more of a Midwest thang. But I love a good casserole, from spinach to broccoli rice to sweet corn. And I never pass up a side at Thanksgiving. I am an equal opportunity consumer. I don’t even care if the cranberries are cut into a slab of congealed jelly or fresh berries with orange zest and ginger. Either way works.

What about y’all? Are you picky? I’d eat any and all of these sides.

 

A Little Nab’ll Do Ya

1937 UT

Who’s the most interesting fellow here? The obvious one in dark frames, or the guy taking a pull of his cigarette? It’s quite the crowded counter. Tiny bottles of soda were available for rationing through an entire meal. Honestly, how we did we ever do that? You might also notice that what appears to be a box of Kleenex or napkins is actually a NAB, a square of salty or sugary carbs to compliment your beverage. Of course, NAB is short for Nabisco. And why not indulge? It’s a mere nickel, or as Gary Gulman calls them, “quarter impersonators.” Might I suggest not pairing Oreos with Coke? The sugar crash will be atrocious.

https://fineartamerica.com/

Meal Options From 70 Years Ago

Well, 18 cents a serving is nothing to sneer at. I don’t know about you, but coming from the Lone Star State, I can appreciate the star in the pie crust, a nod to the “star” of the meal, which is Dinty Moore beef stew. Easy peasy!

If you need another side dish, why not green beans? The finest places served them, so you know they’re quality.


As in the above ad, animated characters are singing and dancing over the mere thought of dining. Who can blame them? Dad knows three chords, and kids know lima bean casserole hits the spot.

Let’s not forget a favorite of media, bandwagon. Everybody is doing it! 27 million people are eating soup. I hope you’re not in the minority here.

Next up, processed American cheese, the nastiest cheese that exists. Almost a non-cheese, if you will. But boy, does it melt.

This next one was a new one on me. I didn’t realize folks had peanut butter and jelly parties. This particular showcase is the “Ice Box Raider Special,” with a variety of flavors. I hope they had both smooth and chunky!


And finally, it’s time for a 1951 dessert. No soy milk, full of lactose goodness, and cherries that one associates with the father of our nation, George Washington (until he, too, is erased). Yum!

If ice cream isn’t your bag, you could go for the heavenly flavor of a devil’s food mix. Dorothy Duff liked it, and she’s probably related to Duff Goldman of “Ace of Cakes.” So it has to be good.

Well, there’s your mid-century wrap-up for today. I hope you’re salivating!

From Morning Call To Last Call

1948 Cactus

Feast your eyes on these natty Texas Longhorns, travelling to Louisiana for a football game in the fall of 1947. I love their fedoras and cowboy hats, the curve of the cars, that one wide pointed black collar, and the teacup with saucer. Do you use saucers? I have some palm tree ones that go with my palm tree teacups, but we only use them separately now. It’s a perfect size for some buttered toast. I imagine these blokes had a nice cup of café au lait and beignets, the signature items of the Morning Call.

Eater New Orleans

The sign says it’s the “most famous coffee drinking place,” but I have never heard of it before. “Coffeehouse” would have taken up less real estate on the sign, but I imagine that word didn’t exist yet.

Morning Call opened in 1870, eight years after the more powerful and still thriving Cafe du Monde, who crushed them in a bidding war last year, which led to their final closing. Having never been to either, I can’t say as I understand the allure of deep fried dough sprinkled with confectioners sugar. Why not just have a donut? Donuts come in all sorts of flavors, and they’re less messy. Then again, in Texas, we consume more breakfast tacos than donuts, so we’re getting our protein and dairy as well. Perhaps the combination of sugary coffee and beignets led one doctor last year to declare Louisiana as “the obesity-diabetes  heartland of America.”

Still, it’s hard to say goodbye to tradition, especially after 149 years. These guys were sad to see it go.

youtube NOLADEEJ

My Nuts Make Me Better Than You

Last week, we were in the unfortunate position of being in a Target, which I try to avoid, as they discontinued playing music and always only have one checker, despite there being 1200 patrons in the store and 15 lanes. In a stroke of luck, we found some Planters cashews on sale, and curiously, the wholes were the same price as the halves and pieces. Now, listen, I’m not royalty. I don’t toss my bills into the air all devil may care. I’ve spent my life eating halves and pieces like the lower to middle income person I am.

 

But here was an opportunity–finally–for me to feel superior to everyone, to put a nut in my mouth the way that God intended, whole, not broken, like most of this country. And in a time of unrest and people unemployed and so bored that they look for every opportunity to be offended where no offense was intended, I decided YES this is my moment. My moment to step up that ladder one caste level and taste what I’ve been missing.

To be clear, this was not a short fat can, like short fat poor people. This was a long and lean tin like greyhounds and Windsors and ladies who lunch, despite eating disorders. This was a can of abundance and hope and opportunity. This can was my people, where I truly belonged. No longer was I tossed out “pieces” like a commoner, a prole, a dog begging his master for scraps. Nay! This was the entire brown crescent! Not crushed by the foot of the man, here to oppress me. But untainted, unbroken, uncompromised. And while the image says “lightly salted,” ye who know me know I am nothing if not salty.

giphy.com

I poured out a handful of the beautiful cashews. Now I am important! This is my mink coat! This is my rapper grill, demanding that others affirm my value! Look at me, I have gold chains! My messy past is erased, and now I matter! But guess what? They taste the same. They simply require more labor from you, as they need to be chewed more. And what is the lower class but not the laboring class? Chew, prole, chew. Fatten up, for there is much labor to be done! So many dichotomies. And it occurred to me that I didn’t need whole nuts to feed my self-esteem. The fact was I was eating cashews, and that still made me better than any peon eating peanuts, no? And “peon” literally means Spanish-American day laborer. So there you go. Can we choose to be offended by that? Now, I’ll go one you one better!

Uh-oh! Don’t say that one out loud.


How I Feel When Another Guest’s Fajita Plate Sizzles Past Me

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We lunched at Chuy’s today, where I’ve eaten since about 1983. They’re still using their crappy limited quarantine menu, while every single other restaurant around here has been full menu for months. Still, though, I can’t quit them, as their creamy jalapeno dip runs in my veins. And just as in every trip, someone with far deeper pockets than mine has ordered the fajitas. My head cocks quickly as I smell the meat and hear the sizzle from a black skillet passing our table. The fajitas seem to wink at me, as if to suggest today is my day to give in. I sigh longingly. No, fajitas, not today, my friend. But one day. One day, we will be together. 

https://www.trifoodies.com/

Long-Lost Beautiful Bean Footage

Finlay Photographs by Luis Marden, 1936

These Boston women cooked up jars/vessels/urns of their city’s famous baked beans, often eaten at Sunday breakfast in days of yore, per the British tradition. What about ye? Hast thou partaken of an English breakfast? Who wouldn’t want to start the Sabbath off with a healthy start of fried eggs, bacon, bangers, half a tomato (why?), a burnt hockey puck, and buttered toast?

 https://www.123rf.com/

Did the Irish later come in and change our whole notion of breakfast by trading beans for potatoes? The only beans consumed in my house for breakfast are refried and tucked inside a breakfast taco.