Trauma transcends familial generations we now know. To forget is sometimes precisely why we cook then eat our cares away. That was a better idea when we were agrarians, a time when food was more sacred, i.e. scarce, and life less than sedentary. So here we are. The tradition to elevate food lives in me but I strive to control it, not allow the desire to control me. I see the manner in which my ancestors fed themselves, body and soul – in moderation, but with a level nourishment to see them through. Bean Pie, a plant-based, gluten-free spirit, but no less a dessert, therefore a treat, is a sweet example.
Last month I wrote about my paternal, great-grandfather Simon Edwards who was a Union soldier during the Civil War. His daughter Evelyn, who was the youngest of 15 children, and my beloved Nana, often said her Daddy was secretive about his past. Nana never expressed to me, perhaps because she had been sheltered as the youngest child, the idea that maybe her Daddy has been enslaved. He was born around 1828 according to his military records, exactly where is unknown, but he joined the Army in Lexington, Kentucky. Writing today, the idea that my great-grandfather was not enslaved is incredulous. Nana mentioned her father would not speak about his past much but said he had to change his last name from Parker to Edwards due to some type of skirmish between him and a White man in Georgia. Nana’s Mother, Jemima, died when Nana was 9 years old so her older siblings raised her, I’m unsure when Father, Simon, died. Nana and I were quite close until her death in 1997; the fact she nor her family ever spoke about enslavement is indicative of how African Americans have dealt with our trauma surrounding race.
Because my great-grandfather has a documented connection to the former slave state of Kentucky, I perused historical records trying to find traces of my family. While I did not uncover any new information about Simon yet, I did read that 18th century “white Americans did not commonly eat cowpeas” but that Black people did. Archeologists uncovered cowpeas or black-eyed peas at the site of an old Kentucky plantation. “A plant native to Africa, the recovery of cowpeas hints at the persistence of some aspects of traditional African foodways in the dishes prepared by the plantation’s enslaved residents.” My ancestors were eating to save themselves, to allow me to be, for us to see today. I probably won’t know if my great-grandfather ever enjoyed a Bean Pie; but he surely feasted upon Summer Squash Gratin and the occasional juicy, roasted chicken. I will continue to honor his legacy.
- Large to Medium Pot
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Large Wooden Spoon or Large Mixing Spatula
- Hand Mixer (optional)
- Cookie Sheet (optional)
- 2/3 cup Navy Beans, Dried Great Northern Beans work also.
- 4 cups Water
- 1½ tbsp Real Salt
- 6 Eggs
- 2 – 14 ounce Canned Sweetened Condensed Milk I used California Farms
- 2 – 9 inch Gluten Free Pie Crusts, frozen I used Wholly Gluten Free
- 1 stick Unsalted Butter, melted
- 1 tsp Allspice
- ½ tsp Cardamom
- ¼ tsp Ground Cloves
- Nutmeg, garnish
- Rinse beans thoroughly in a colander, removing any unsightly beans or debris such as pebbles.
- Place the beans in the large to medium pot.
- Cover with the water (make sure the water is not hot, tap temperature is fine) and allow beans to soak overnight.
- Add the salt to the soaked beans and cook on high a few minutes until the water boils, then reduce the heat to low. Cook the beans for about 3 hours or until soft. You may use a spoon to see if the beans are easily mashable.
- Once beans are cooked, remove the pot from the heat source and allow to cool.
- Remove pie crusts from freezer so that they may thaw to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Once cooled, strain the water from the beans into a metal colander then place the beans into a large mixing bowl along with all the other ingredients except for the nutmeg.
- Mix together with a large wooden spoon, spatula or hand mixer until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and smooth.
- Place the two pie crusts onto a cookie sheet.
- Pour one half of the bean mixture into each pie crust. Garnish both with a dusting of nutmeg if desired.
- Place the cookie sheet with the pies into the oven for 50 minutes.
- Remove from the pies from oven, allow to cool and serve. You may garnish the slices of pie with slightly sweetened whip cream or fresh fruit.