Sunday, October 07, 2012
Beans and Politics
I get tons of political phone calls these days - most of them robocalls, some of them fake polls, some on behalf of a political party wanting my vote. Ironically, I am rarely called on behalf of the candidate I am planning on voting for - it's the other guy who is wasting his money on me. Based on the calls I receive and what I have heard about this presidential campaign, I am in a key market demographic..the white suburban mom "swing voter". On paper, I look like I should definitely be voting for this guy. I live in the right neighborhood, I make the right salary, my education and career indicate all bets should be "on" for this guy. It's nice to be coveted, but it's come to the breaking point when I was awakened from a rare Saturday afternoon nap by a robocall. For the record, a phone call (especially one made by a recording) will not change my vote. I like to get a live person on the phone whenever I can. I can usually stop them cold, midscript, by saying "I don't vote by political party, I vote by my morals. Over the years, I have found that it would be rare for me to vote for a candidate from your political party. On occasion, it has happened, but my conscience is my guide." I've used this line in heated political conversations, too. It always makes the other person stop and think....I can see the gears turning in their head (and sometimes a look of shame passes across their face) as they think "Am I voting with my conscience?" Then I turn and walk away. I am not sure if I changed their mind, but I get the satisfaction in knowing I made them think about their reasons for why they are voting for the other guy.
In the days before robocalling, cookbooks were often used to reach out for the woman's vote. In Ann Arbor, we are fortunate to have culinary historian Jan Longone and her culinary archive at the Clements Library. I've never met Jan, but I have learned from reading about her that cookbooks were often used to gain favor among women voters. I think it's time that these candidates quit the junk mail and phone calls and start sending this voter some cookbooks! The other day, while indulging in one of my favorite Saturday morning pastimes, rummaging through the cookbook section of the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Sale, I found a Michigan Bean Commission cookbook. Michigan is a top producer of dried beans. There's no date on the booklet, so I am not sure when it was published, but my guess it must have been the early 60s. My friend Ellen flipped open the booklet, and the first recipe we spied was this one:
Not to be partisan, on another page, I found this recipe:
Wouldn't it be great if all the politicians gave us their favorite recipes? I wondered if our current governor had a favorite bean recipe? I tottered over to the Michigan Bean Commission's website to see if Governor Snyder had one, but alas, there isn't one. I always stock Michigan beans in my larder, so I decided to give some of these recipes a shot. Our former governor George Romney inspired me to make bean soup a couple weeks ago, but I took a lot of liberties with his recipe...I added pork sausage instead of salt pork and threw in some baby kale. It was great! This weekend, I dabbled in baked beans. I was surprised that John F. Kennedy, a Massachusetts native, would dare put anything "tomato-like" such as ketchup in his baked beans, that being frowned upon by East Coast folk, but I let his recipe be my guide. I doctored it up a little bit....and they were the best baked beans I have ever made. They were great to make on a cold fall Saturday....we will eat them tonight with sausage for dinner. I think baked beans are always better then next day, and my husband likes to eat his cold (yuck). I will heat mine up.
4 cups dry Michigan Navy Beans
1 smoked ham hock
1 small onion, chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1 cup ketchup
2 T dry mustard
1 T salt
2 T Worchesterschire sauce
2 c water
Rinse and sort beans, cover with water and bring to a boil in a large pot for 5 minutes. Shut off heat and let beans soak for an hour, drain. Add hock and cook beans until soft over low heat, this takes about an hour or two. Remove hock and drain again. Dice up hock meat, add to beans. Add remaining ingredients, cover and bake in a 250 F oven for 6 hours. Add water if beans start to look dry. Remove cover and bake for another hour.
I am looking forward to trying this recipe on a scout campout as a "bean hole" recipe, as described by my vintage bean cookbook...
"Whether it's in the sand at the shore or in the woods while you are hunting, here's a great dish most outdoorsmen and all Boy Scouts know! Use your favorite recipe with tender boiled beans ready for baking. Dig a hole next to your campfire and put the Dutch oven down in it. Before you retire for the night, put some hot coals and hot rocks on top and throw on a little wood. Serve the beans for breakfast."