Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Yikes! It's been nearly a week since I posted. What's been going on with me? Well, some of my family and friends have not escaped the long version of my story, but the short version is that my laptop failed. I had backed up my documents a month ago, so maybe the damage isn't too bad. Right now it's just a matter of inconvenience, especially for Mike who must share his PC with me. On the other hand, before too many weeks pass I will probably have my right arm restored. I could go on and on but suddenly I heard myself whining and decided I should count my blessings. It's a machine and I can replace it.

But enough about me. A while back, Dr. Molly asked what kinds of beans the Dobson Twins grew. I didn't know, and Hallie suggested asking a neighbor (choose the "phone-a-friend" option). So, on my morning bike ride, I stopped at Neighbor Pete's and asked if he could tell me about the beans the Dobson boys grew.

Yes, indeed, he could. He said various kinds but primarily white or navy beans because that was the government (military) market. He also mentioned red kidney beans and "buckeyes," I believe he said -- little yellow beans. But then he reiterated that the primary crop was white or navy beans.

Pete added that he didn't know how the Dobsons marketed their beans but his dad developed his own clientele and sold all the way to Walla Walla. The only piece of information I have is that Grandpa Julian mentioned to Vance in a Depression-era letter that he had a carload of beans sitting at the train depot in Orofino that he had been unable to sell.

[I posted the photos previously. I think they were taken about 1912, so they are images of life about 100 years ago. My dad was still too young to be of much use in hoeing the beans, I suppose, but all of the children learned to hoe and to hoe well. And they hoed acres of beans by hand. Well -- you develop some strength.] KW


Leah said...

When I was a child, "Beans & Cornbread" was a favorite meal. Fried potatoes and fresh cucumber & onion salad rounded out the menu. I lived in central Missouri, and cooking styles there were very "southern." My mother used navy beans. I prefer these smaller beans over Great Northern white beans. She told me that my father liked red beans with his cornbread. I think that was because my grandfather grew up in Texas and he was the cook in my dad's family.

When you get as far south as Texas, red beans are preferred. Mother made chili with small red beans. When I moved to California, it was hard to find small red beans for homemade chili. I'm in the southwest now and people here use pinto beans in everything, chili included.

A few years ago when my son came to visit, he asked me to make "Cornbread & Beans" with fried potatoes. Talk about comfort food.

Of course, beans are a protein substitute and kept many a tummy full during the great depression.

I wonder if Ina made beans & cornbread?

Hallie said...

I know that the store calls the Great Northern bean the same as Cannellini beans, but then there is yet another can called White Kidney bean. If given a test, I'm not certain I could see a difference, but my taster thinks there is. What do others think?

Pictures: I guess that really is a long row to hoe!

Leah said...

Hallie: I'm pretty sure cannellini & great northern are different beans. Cannellini beans are from Italy.

What you may not know is that a manufacturer or canning factory uses names consistent with the names used by the people who live in the area where the products will be sold. Case in point: small red beans are labeled "small red beans" in the south. In the southwest, the same beans are labeled "chili beans" and they throw in a little chili powder with the seasoning. It's really hard to find plain small red beans in a can in California.

The reason your store is labeling large white beans as cannellini beans is maybe that they can be used interchaneably in recipes. I've found cans labeled "chili beans" that have either small red beans or pinto beans. When the pictures (and names) are confusing, I just read the ingredients to see what on earth is really in the can.

Chili made with kidney beans (large red beans) tastes very different from chili made with small read beans.

Leah said...

Speaking of food packaged differently around the country...a good example is butter. In the midwest, the 1/4's in a pound of butter are long and thin. In California, the 1/4's are short and fat. The markings (on the outside paper) of each 1/4 lb. are, of course, marked in 1 oz. increments, but those, too are different shapes.

This is way off message, Kathy, but thinking about bean packaging made me think about butter wrappers.

Hallie said...

Ha! It all comes down to marketing. I wonder if DocM finds these types of inconsistencies frustrating since she's an expert. It seems that whenever you really study something you find little things that are bothersome.

Chris said...

I'll have to ask Dad about this as I know he hired out to hoe beans up in that area when he was about 13-15. As I remember, he said the farmers would carry money with them, and if you didn't work well, they'd pay you off on the spot and hire someone to replace you. Apparently, since this was the depression era, there were always men and boys waiting on the sidelines, hoping to get work so replacements weren't hard to find.

Kathy said...

I'll check Ina's recipe box for beans and cornbread, Leah. One thing I believe I've learned about Ina is that she carried some of her cooking secrets in her head. I'm not sure how much she depended on written recipes.

I'm not very sensitive to the taste difference in beans, but Mike doesn't care for black beans.

I'm anxious to hear what your dad says about hoeing beans, Chris. I'm sure the expectation was that the worker would get that hoe under the weed and lift it out by the root. And they probably wanted it done quickly.

We're having broccoli salad with our grilled chicken dinner. The salad has red kidney beans in it.

Leah said...

Kathy: I doubt you'll find a recipe for Beans & Cornbread in Ina's recipes. It's really 2 separate items. Dry navy beans are cooked by themselves (seasoned, of course). The cornbread is baked and served with the meal (like bread). I've never had navy beans without cornbread. Just doesn't seem right. We would put thick slices of cornbread on the plate and spoon the beans over them. If someone wanted cornbread with butter to eat separately, they did that as well as have the cornbread smothered in navy beans on the plate.

Navy beans have a distinct flavor and are quite nice. I'm with Mike. I can't make friends with black beans.