There are certain foods that inspire debate. New York is certain it makes the only ‘real’ pizza. New England thinks its Clam Chowder is the only legit version. I’m not going to enter into the whole BBQ debate! Heck, Americans can’t even agree on how to spell that one. (Although, we all know Texas BBQ is the grand-patriarch of smoked brisket!)
Narrowing the view to a single state, there’s still debate. In Texas, chili is practically our state food. Even so, no two Texans agree on the perfect chili recipe. Do you use ground beef, venison, or stew meat? To bean or not to bean is a chili debate still raging hot on the range. Though ‘real Texans’ wouldn’t hear of ruining good chili with beans! I have an uncle who makes award winning chili, so I know better than to toss my hat into that arena.
What I want to talk about is beans and cornbread. In a previous post, I mentioned that this meal is a part of our culture in Texas. It’s one of those meals that falls into the comfort food category, especially if you have the cash to put in some good smokey ham. I was leery of posting a recipe for beans and cornbread, because, in my house it would be like posting a recipe for scrambled eggs. However, a quick consult with Chef Google revealed a lack of recipes for the dish I grew up eating. These beans were at every church “dinner-on-the-grounds”, both sides of my family “get-togethers”, and my mother-in-law makes a mean pot of beans. Yet, this is one of those meals for which no one has an actual recipe. We just do it like our Mamas do.
When I searched for bean recipes, I found beans using cajun seasonings, Tex-Mex seasonings, and a few that resembled wimpy chili. I love Cajun and Tex-Mex anything (wimpy chili, not so much), but that isn’t what I’m talkin’bout! So, I’m going to offer up a recipe for beans the way we make them. Every home in Texas, that makes Beans and Cornbread has their own version. I don’t claim that this is the ‘right’ version, it is simply my version (and it’s tasty).
I love y’all enough, that I dug out some measuring cups and made an official family tested/approved recipe. You may not know this, but that is an act of heartfelt affection on my part. I’m not one of life’s measurers. You know those jokes about Grandma’s recipes calling for a dash, a dab, and a pinch? Yep, that’s me. I’ve expanded the non-standard measurements to include a glug, a splash, and a dollop. This system has taken hold to the point, that I can tell Grace to put a couple of glugs in a pan and know there will be almost exactly 1/8 cup. (See, I really do measure. I just do it with my hands and eyes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really help y’all. So, I lovingly created a version for the poor souls who don’t know that a glug, is about one and a half splashes!)
First, I want to share a quick opinion. Let me just say, I love recipes. I enjoy reading cookbooks from cover to cover. I am one of those weirdos who prefers Fifty Ways to Braise over Fifty Shades of Gray any day! Even so, I’m not a cook who’s married to recipes. A recipe should be a starting point. Think of your recipe not as a map, but as a launch pad. As you’re making this dish, taste and tweak. Unless you intend to invite me over for dinner, these beans should be designed to hit the spot for your family.
Cornbread is another highly debated food. Sweet or savory? Cakey or crusty? I like cornbread in most of its variations because it IS bread. Let’s face it, any way you slice it bread is fantastic! However, on a trip to Virginia a few years ago we ate at a wonderful place near Monticello. They used centuries-old recipes, and the food was amazing. It was incredible…except (dun dun DUN) the cornbread. Their cornbread looked like white sheath cake. It was so sweet, that two soft squishy bites sent my blood sugar soaring to diabetic coma levels!
To go with these beans, I like a VERY SLIGHTLY sweet crusty cornbread. Sam was notoriously picky as a child. At about age five, he sat down to a table-creaking Christmas dinner, scanned the offerings, smiled lovingly at the cast iron skillet of cornbread, and announced: “Cornbread is just Heaven”. He’s fifteen, and we still razz him about it. Though I enjoy teasing him, I still make his Heavenly cornbread! The recipe for it can be found here.
I hope you’ll give this meal a try. In our home, it means comfort. It conjures memories of long ago suppers with loved ones. For now, the beans are almost ready. I think I’ll make a pan of cornbread, light the oil lamps, and call the family to supper. (Some days, we call “Pioneer Days” and eat by oil lamps, just for the sheer fun of it. But, we still use the dishwasher afterward! It’s all about priorities, people!)
What are the meals that mean comfort and family to you? Do you measure with your hands/eyes or with cups? Leave me a comment, if you have the time. I love to hear from y’all!
If you need help with bean cooking basics, check out our post on Bean Cooking 101.
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