The ‘pinto bean’
Consider for a moment the lowly pinto bean. In The Great Republic of Texas the National Dish is Chili. Specifically: Texan Chili.
Do not bean up chili. On pain of death Son, do not bean-up chili.
Still freshly pressed from California, (Actually four years into being ‘freshly pressed,’ but some things take more time to take than others) I did not know this.
My junior year in Honey Grove High School I volunteered to provide the chili for the fundraising endeavor of my class. We were to sell chili-dogs and Frito pies during the breaks—the break before lunch and the break after lunch just before liberty: Two of the hungriest times in High School. We would have a captive audience.
On the Friday afternoon before the Monday break time when the ’74 Junior Class was to unveil their fundraising enterprise, I was at-a-loss. I had never until that day cooked anything resembling food. Once, during a camping trip years before, a man who was somehow kin to me, (by marriage—not genes), brought out some bacon and proceeded to throw it into a skillet on the camp fire.
“Hey!” I said. “Don’t you need to put some flour in there with that bacon?”
Yes. I was stupid.
Anyway… Here I was after shooting my big mouth off, now needing to produce tons of chili for the chili dogs and Frito pies. (OK. I do realize there are some not-Texans who have no idea what the fuck is a Frito Pie. Here is the quick version: Take one ah dem very small packs of Frito’s corn chips, slice it down the side, open it up, pour chili on top, et voila! Frito Pie, or as some call it: Meskin Lasagna.)
Dear Gloria, (My Stepmother, who was actually from ‘Up North—Montana- or sum such place), Dear Step Momma, I need to cook up a big batch O’ Chili. Kin ya help me?”
“Sure, Stepson, I can help you.”
Well… what do I do first?” I honestly enquired.
“Stepson, first you soak some beans.”
“Beans? I am makin’ chili. Why do I need beans?”
“You need beans, Red-Headed-Step-Son, to fill in the profit.”
“Ah don’t recall beans in chili, Step-Mom.”
“Trust me: Step-Son; beans are what everyone needs… in chili… here.”
“So… I need to cook beans before chili?”
“How do I do that?” I asked.
“First you soak them. Soak them for fifteen hours.”
“Cook them. Cook them for another fourteen hours.”
“And the chili?”
“Cook that for hours…”
“So… I ‘combine’ the chili with them beans?”
“Do not say ‘them’ in this house.”
“Yes, you ‘combine’ the beans with the chili, and then you have a profitable enterprise.”
“I see, thanks Step-Mother-from-North-Dakota.”
Following Monday, I show up with my ‘CHILI’
“Marcom! What the fuck is this? This ain’t chili! This shit has beans! Beans! Beans!”
Imagine my shame.
“But…but…but… My Mom… er…my sometime Mom…
I shouda knowed better.