Most mornings before lunch, we all pile onto the sofa and the kids bring me fearsome heaps that demonstrate their ability to dream big. I read only library books, and each one only once. Even so, we’re pushing it to make our way through all the books before we must return them.
A couple library trips ago, I ran into a friend of mine who happens to be an expert on children’s literature. She pointed me in the direction of the biographical picture books and now I’m hooked. Along with the Berenstain Bears and Frog and Toad, we read stories about Harriet Tubman, Michael Jordan, Rosa Parks, Jane Goodall, and Franklin Roosevelt. We read about Grandma Moses (she lived right here in this valley!) and look up her artwork on the internet. We read about Gregor Mendel and his peas and then, because the children are so fascinated, I use brown and blue crayons to map out the genetics of their eye colors. We read about Dr. Seuss which inspires the kids to search our shelves for all his books and go on a Seuss-reading jag. And we read about Casey Jones, I spy the recipe for Hobo Beans at the end of the book, make them, and suddenly we have a new family favorite.
The children went absolutely crazy-nuts for these beans. They ate fast and heaped their plate with seconds. The boys, especially, couldn’t stop raving. "What do you mean these are hobo beans?" my older son said. "They should be called kingly beans!"
I put the leftovers in the freezer and my children have rebuked me ever since.
“Why did you freeze them!”
“We want to eat them now!”
“When will you get them out?”
“Can we have them for supper tonight?”
Moral: library books are nourishing in more ways than one.
Adapted from a recipe found in Casey Jones, retold by Larry Dane Brimner.
This recipe is similar to a thick chili. I served it in bowls (no condiments), with cornbread and a green salad. It would also be good ladled over rice or egg noodles, or served with biscuits or mountains of buttered toast.
Do not omit the pineapple.
3-6 slices bacon, chopped and cooked till crispy
2 pounds ground beef
1-2 large onions, chopped
1 pound dried red beans, cooked
1 cup crushed pineapple, briefly drained
1 cup brown sugar, gently packed
1 pint tomato sauce (I used roasted)
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
splash of vinegar
Fry the bacon in a large skillet. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the ground beef and onions to the pan (don’t remove the bacon grease!) and fry until browned and thoroughly cooked.
Combine the cooked beef, the bacon, and all remaining ingredients in a slow-cooker. Cook on high-heat for a couple hours until bubbling. Let simmer a couple more hours so the flavors meld. Serve hot.