from the archives: southern skillet beans
03 July 2012 I don’t know why I didn’t post this at the time. It’s one of my favorite bloggings and, although it’s been hidden away for nearly two years now, it feels proper to post it, thousands of miles, far from home, nostalgic and remembering childhood dreams of travelling the world. from Greenwich, London, England
When I first received my copy of The Flavor Bible, a now favorite resource on mine, I immediately turned to green beans without thinking twice. Now, you may be thinking, “Green beans? Why, of all of the great ingredients in the world, would you turn to the simple and plain green bean?” In truth, even I found it a bit curious until the reason came to me in a moment of realization. The reason, it’s simple, is nostalgia.
See, canned green beans form a better part of my childhood food memories. My dad loved them– they’re inexpensive, relatively healthy, fairly tasty, and are an acceptable side item for just about anything from fried chicken to pork chops, a hamburger, or a grilled steak. All of which, in some way or another, formed my other earliest memories of food, with the only missing pieces needed to fill in the puzzle being copious amounts of creamed corn, black eye’d peas, fried Tilapia, and macaroni and cheese. Oh… and mashed potatoes. We can´t forget my mom’s thousand varieties of mashed potatoes!
Now, while I don’t eat green beans everyday or have them with every meal, like I did when I was a kid, I still have a deep appreciation and love for them. Thankfully, in the interest of keeping things exciting, I’ve thought up a few ways to spruce them up after a few years of trial, error and, at times, radical experimentation. What I’ve learned is that different cooking methods can coax a range of flavors out of such a simply flavored bean. Long, slow-cooking in a deeply flavored broth courtesy of a smoked ham hock produces a tender bean with a deep richness; a quick boil followed by a high-heat sauté in bacon fat brings out a slightly smoky, meaty caramelized flavor; gently steamed and shocked in ice water and paired with fresh herbs, a little butter, and a tangy vinegar will accentuate their freshness. Regardless of how I choose to cook them, eating a bowl of green beans transports me back to childhood like only comfort food has the power to do.
Which, again, is why I turned to green beans when I first opened the book; the simple, yet infinitely sweet taste of nostalgia, the unexplainable force that memories have to drive our lives, continuing living, if only in a subtle way, to recapture or reexperience our fondest memories– of childhood, of holiday gatherings, of family, friendships, first loves, and food.
Written December 20th, 2010
Love and Memories,