Friday, January 18, 2008

The Bean Wars of 2008

One of the ongoing quests in my kitchen has been to achieve the perfect baked bean recipe. Each time I make a pot of beans I tweek it a little here or there and each time it gets closer to perfection.

Little did I know that there were those working behind the scenes to thwart the achievement of my goal. This occurred to me when I began the two-day process and Dirtman asked, "What are you going to do this time?"

"Part brown sugar, part maple syrup. And I used bacon rather than smoked pork."

"No green peppers?" he asked innocently.

Green peppers? What kind of brain dead mutant puts green peppers in baked beans?

"You know -- like at Red, Hot, and Blue," he continued.

Then I realized the horrible reality: we both had a different concept of what constitutes perfect baked beans. My version was decidedly -- Yankee -- and his version was decidedly -- not.

It was my argument, as the one doing the cooking, that unless one is willing to babysit a pot of beans for two days to achieve one's goal, one should accept the beans put in front of one. It was Dirtman's argument that perhaps if one is so adamant against a particular flavoring heretofore alien to one, one is incapable of achieving such a refined taste and is, therefore, masking said incompetence with feigned distaste. Yeah. Well...

At least I'm doing my beans first.

So today I began my version which I have given the name Beans of Northern Aggression.

Now let's set some parameters here. If you have a bean recipe and it mentions anything about opening a can -- this is not a real baked bean recipe; it is assembly instructions. If your recipe calls for opening a can of beans already flavored with something, I don't care what you are shaking into it, it's not cooking, it's heating something up.

We're talking serious bean commitment here, where you are responsible for not only the flavor, but the ultimate consistency of your bean.

Secondly, and this is still being debated, it's not a baked bean if not baked in a bean pot. Don't have a bean pot? Then you probably live south of Maryland and YOU HAVEN'T BEEN MAKING BAKED BEANS. This goes along with a theory I have about southern cooks, that no one will admit to and I don't expect that to change now, but here goes: Southern cooks only cook seriously for other people which usually manifests itself as pot luck suppers. Otherwise they throw cheese sandwiches and Spam at their family. I've seen mostly throw-away aluminum foil baking dishes and two-quart casserole dishes in Southern kitchens; so I know you all don't have a bean pot so I don't even think Dirtman can call his version baked beans.

But, knowing that the Beans of Northern Aggression are so far superior, I will, when making Dirtman's version, allow the use of my traditional bean pot, if only to save the environment from yet another dose of crusty aluminum. Your welcome.

Right now, as we ... er ... read ... the Beans of Northern Aggression are rolling lazily in their silky bath of a smokey maple slip, cuddling against a blanket of bacon, all cradled in my vintage blue tulip bean pot in a barely hot oven where it will spend the afternoon and evening with regular ladles of warmth poured over it.

But tomorrow those beans are going to kick ass.*

*Heeeee...kind of works a few levels....

And now a word about my oven:

No self-respecting cook would have an oven this clean. This is the oven of someone who heats up frozen pizza -- in the microwave. But I finally had to break down and clean the ovens because one of them set off the smoke alarm, which results in an evening a chaos when you have dogs. Have no fear -- by Monday it will look well-used.


Meg said...

Wait a second.....there is, allegedly, ANOTHER way to make baked beans?? I don't think so! I, personally, am from CA, but on my dad's side we're from Waltham, MA and Somerville, MA. We make baked beans like yours (only, now being a vegetarian, I would be inclined to omit the actual bacon and use a wee bit of fake bacon, as I cannot stomach pork products after 13 meat-free years). I do not make baked beans now because, sadly, I am the only one here who likes them, and it is too much work for just me to eat, but I have fond memories.

If you ask me, you are right, your husband is wrong, baked beans are baked beans, dammit. Don't mess with perfection. And your bean pot is fabulous.

Perhaps the man is having temporary insanity and is thinking of chili? Peppers can be in chili, but baked beans?!? Good god, no!

Sisiggy said...

Meg: So, in your very blood is the truth about baked beans. I try to empathize with Dirtman; I figure his brain is muddled from being raised on all those pastel gelatin molds that people in the south thrive on.

Jane G. said...

1. Putting peppers in the baked beans is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE AND SUPER TASTY. That being said, I can eat them just about any way.

2. Beans of Northern Aggression is the best name I have ever heard. I'll be giggling about it all weekend.

3. Your southern cooks theory hurts my feelings. We cannot win it seems. We either cook too much and unhealthily or we cook too little and fling spam at our loved ones.

4. Pastel gelatin molds (known to me as "congealed salad" growing up) are an abomination unto the lord and everyone else.

Gwynne said...

..."and it mentions anything about opening a can -- this is not a real baked bean recipe; it is assembly instructions."

Heh. Spoken like a true cook.

Your ovens are an inspiration. Not that I'll do anything about it until the smoke alarms go off, but still.

And never, never green peppers in the baked beans. Never.

Is this really what the movie, the Milagro Beanfield Wars, was all about? I need to watch that again.

Sisiggy said...

jane: Actually, I just like the phrase "flinging spam." (And, growing up, my older brother called gelatin molds "Protestant salad" because he only saw them when we visited non-Catholic friends [which at the time was a venial sin, I think], so I can't really say they're only a Southern phenomenon.)

Gwynne: Yeah -- you notice they weren't fighting over a green pepper field.

Jane G. said...

Protestant salad. Heh.

Leslie Shelor said...

I come from a long line of Southern spam-sucking trailer trash, and I stand here to say, "Frankly, my dear--"

Sisiggy said...

Leslie: I like saying "spam-sucking trailer trash" better than "flinging spam."

Leslie Shelor said...

I stole "spam sucking trailer trash" from somewhere, so feel free to use it.

By the way, you're up there in Occupied Virginia, you know, not the REAL South!

Sisiggy said...

Technically, we're "The Valley" and not considered part of Northern Virginia. How do I know this? From Dirtman's years working for the state. Northern Virginia got way more money than The Valley and The Piedmont. That being said, I've noticed the Occupied Virginia atmosphere turned right at Clarke County (that wouldn't let them in), into Berkley County, W.Va. and then down into Frederick County, Va. They should be arriving shortly. But so far, Occupied Virginia considers Shenandoah County "the sticks." And Dirtman has all kinds of factoids regarding the percentage of the local populace that was decidedly pro-union during the Civil War. So, yeah, we're hardly "the deep South." But there is still something decidedly Faulknerian about Saturday mornings in some of the smaller burgs...(JAG I'm sure hates that...).

JACKet said...

Wow, what a clean oven, what fantastic baked beans. I am facinated by them, i have a recipe in my recipe book, and have been wanting to do it for years. Now i just want to eat yours, a bean pot, amazing. It is so refreshing to that you are pashionate about cooking, yumm. Jacky,
PS I made tomato sauce, it took 3 hours of stiring.

JACKet said...

Ps. American , north/south food wars, wow J