Sunday, February 24, 2013

Red beans, Rice and My Mama

Red Beans recipe:

1. Sort beans
2. Wash in colander.
3. Slice onions, shallots, celery and garlic.  
4. Saute ingredients in butter or margarine.
5. Saute in sausage (or soy if you're like me)
6.  Toss in beans.
7.  Add approximately two quarts of water.
8. Stir as water boils. 
9. Periodically take a spoonful, mash beans, and toss back into pot.  This gives substance to the dish. 
10. Season with parsley, thyme, salt, and  pepper. 
11.  Add water as needed to soften beans.
12.  This takes approximately 2 hours. 
13.  Boil as much rice as needed for your family.  

For those of you unfamiliar with New Orleans customs, Monday is red beans and rice day in New Orleans.  Traditionally, New Orleans women prepared their washing on Monday; the beans cooked slowly, allowing the ladies to concentrate on other household tasks.  

For me, "Monday, Red Beans Day" meant much more.  The process actually begins the  day before, on Sunday afternoon.  I'd sit in the kitchen in our old house with my mother, watching as she sorted the beans.  My mother's hands were strong with wide knuckles.  She hadn't lived a swank life.  Like her mother before her, she performed her own household tasks.  No maid visited our household.  Those hands were precious to me.  They had soothed my earliest fears and held me tight after my nightmares.  I hated school as a kid.  With buck teeth and a chubby body, I was the subject of taunts from the brats from my Catholic grade school.  My mother would comfort me, explaining that I should ignore the taunts of idiots. They were low little snobs who would get theirs one day.  She told me to hold myself above the fray--always to be kind and a good sport. I'd listen to her voice, watching as her hands grasped the "good beans," tossing them into the  colander.  The "bad beans" went into her ashtray.  She'd then rinse the beans at he sink before slicing her seasoning.  

I can still see her as she spread the waxed paper and assembled the shallots, onions, and celery.  Her hair was roller-filled, and she concealed them beneath a colorful scarf. She'd send one of her penetrating glances my way, asking what had happened.  I'd recount the latest insult or slight.  Everyone was invited to a party but I. She'd move to me and hold me tight.  I'd cry because I wasn't skinny like the other kids my age, and the little bastards reminded me of it every day.  She'd tell me not to worry.  My mother thought I was beautiful, an other people were blind or jealous.  I'd feel safe again.  Someone loved me.  Then, I'd help her gather the other ingredients--to be put aside for the next day.  

On Monday, I'd watch my mother in the kitchen after school.  This was when she'd complete the meal. She'd ask how my day had gone.  of course, the day had been filled with the usual bullying and ugliness, but I'd remember my mother's words.  Someone loved me. More and more, I began to stand up to bullies, and I love seeing some of these people again. I'm now thin and lithe.  Most of them aren't.  I still see my mother's hands and hear her voice.  Red beans and rice Monday.  


  1. Viola this is a lovely story,not of course the bullying but it shows such is the love of a mother. My mother is nearly 89 and her health failing. Mothers are precious.

    Jane Beckenham

  2. Jane,

    Treasure your mother always. I so wish mine was still here--especially to see me writing.