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Soup Beans
(Better known as Pintos)
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 by Frank Shortt
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        Growing up in the mountains of Virginia the staple at meals was pinto beans, corn bread, fried potatoes, and if it was summer, green onions on the side. By the way, my brother, Wendell, made the best corn bread one could ever taste. It is super crunchy on the outside and moist and soft on the inside. I can taste it now.
        Mom kept a pot of soup beans, cooked with sow belly, on the woodstove most every day. At dinnertime, known to most folks as lunch, she would make a pone of corn bread, fry some potatoes up to a golden brown, serving them with either Cole slaw or green onions. My brother, E.L., the inventive one, would add mayonnaise to the beans, and sometimes, cut up onions in the bowl crumbling corn bread in the mixture.
        Pinto beans were known to the coal miners as ‘miner’s strawberries’ making up their main source of protein. They could work all day, slaving, loading coal, on a lunch of beans and cornbread. Their treat when they arrived home was a supper of, you guessed it, soup beans and cornbread.
        Pinto beans were known to the cowboys as ‘Cowboy Beans’, just pintos, cooked with a little beef, chili powder, and served with sourdough bread. Most cow outfits on the Texas plains kept their help all the year through. When times got a little rough, those Cowboy beans looked mighty nutritious and desirable. A cowboy would ride many miles to pull up to the chuck wagon for a meal of ‘cowboy beans’. Bulls were too expensive to have a daily ration of beef. The next best source of protein, pinto beans!
        When Pancho Villa rode he fed his small army on tortillas, tequila, and frijoles with red chili. The chili and tequila kept them warm, the tortillas and frijoles provided protein, and the bean of choice was the lowly pinto. If Pancho had fed his army a little beef or chicken, he might have won the heart of Mexico.
        When scientists crave protein they make the Bunson burner hot, boiling the water and placing some small pellets inside called ‘Phaesouslus Vulgagaris’. Soon they enjoy some wonderfully cooked pinto beans sating their craving for protein. They have known for years that this is the easiest, most economical way to eat healthy.
         In New England, those Yankees think to upstage their Southern neighbors, meanwhile enjoying the flavor of pinto beans. They add, of all things, maple syrup to the pot, calling them Boston baked beans. They are still soup beans no matter what hifalutin name is tacked onto them. Things have to be proper up North.
        The pinto bean is known to be part of the legume family. They are rich in nutrients and a great source of protein in a time of meat shortages when served with rice and corn bread. Pintos are also rich in phosphorus and manganese, and a very good source of fiber and folate. Studies have indicated that pinto beans are a great diet for those with cholesterol level problems whether they are HDL or LDL. Studies also indicate that pinto beans have been shown to contain Coumestrol which is a phytoestrogen and mimics the biological activity of estrogens.
        As for me, I’ll stick to the old fashioned hillbilly cuisine. That would be pinto beans, cooked with bacon fat, served over hot cornbread, with a garnish of green onions with fried potatoes. I am sure that I will not win a popularity contest with my cardiologist or among mixed company, and will have to brush thoroughly before going out in public. This meal is worth all that extra effort, providing my brother, Wendell, had baked the pone of cornbread.