Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ham & Beans or Ham & Bean Soup

A marriage is a culinary union. I've even proposed that wedding vows acknowledged this in order to help preserve the marriage when taste buds clash. Sometimes that union offers a stark contrast, like the vegetarian Jew who marries the Southern Bubba. However, often often the subtle differences stir up minor arguments over questions like: How many beans go into a pot of chili? What bourbon should take center stage in the liquor cabinet? Do raisins belong on cookies? What is the ideal ratio for the perfect margarita?

In our household culinary harmony usually exists, but the occasional disagreement surfaces.

Exhibit A:

Early in our marriage, I casually mentioned that I was hungry for ham and beans. Since my wife is a kind soul, she fixed me ham and beans for supper. However, when she set the bowl in front of me, I could see my disappointed reflection in the broth.

"What is this?" I asked.

"Ham and Bean soup," replied my wife.

I trolled my spoon through the bowl, attempting to find a bean, "Where are the beans?"

"I let the soup boil too long and they disintegrated," she said.

"Oh," I said.

Then I politely explained my disappointment. I told her about the ham and beans of my youth, a dish that was more a stew than a soup. My ham and beans consisted of more beans than broth and was a hearty affair. Spending my evening looking for a single bean in a bowl of ham and bean soup was more of a dainty affair. I prefer hearty.

Since that moment, I've learned to do dainty, and I enjoy my wife's ham and bean soup. It's something I look forward to this time of year. I'm OK waving the white flag with this culinary battle, but I refuse to give up any ground when it comes to boiled summer sausage.

Ham and Bean Soup


  • 1 cup dry 15 navy or Great Northern beans, rinsed (If you want to use canned beans, that would be fine.)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked ham
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf

1. Rinse beans. In a 4-quart Dutch oven combine beans and 4 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. (Or, place beans in water in Dutch oven. Cover and let soak in a cool place for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.) Drain and rinse beans; set aside.

2. Add beans, thyme, salt, pepper, bay leaf, celery, onions, tomatoes, and 4 cups fresh water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Discard bones and bay leaf. Slightly mash beans in saucepan (I, however, would never mash my beans.)

3. Stir in chopped meat; heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

pass the Beano,


High Plains Drifters said...

You pick a society, any society: Zuni, Nudembo , Pennsylvania Dutch. What's the one thing that they all have in common? Marriage. It's like a cultural handrail; it links folks to the past and guides them to the future.

That's not all, though. Marriage is the union of disparate elements: male and female, yin and yang, proton and electron. What are we talking about here? Nothing less than the very tension that binds the universe. You see, when we look at marriage, people, we're looking at creation itself.

High Plains Drifters said...

i find myself questioning the bay leaf. thinking we're all pawns of the global bay leaf cartels. have you ever made a dish, served it friends, and had someone say, "hmmmm, needs more bay leaf"?