Tom Brown’s Black Bean Soup

August 17, 2012

This was the breakfast I gave to Chris and Mark on their 3rd morning here, and this is the recipe that Mark gave me, for…

Tom Brown’s Black Bean Soup (Quick ‘n Easy)

I can black beans
2 12 oz cans chicken broth
12 oz salsa
1 cup white wine
1 cup cooked long grain rice
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup celery
1 chicken breast, cubed
1 clove garlic, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp cumin
S & P

Brown chicken and remove from pot. Put veggies in the same pot and simmer for 5 min’s. Then add the garlic and cumin and simmer for 2 min’s. Put the chicken back into the pot, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 30 min’s. Voila.

Before his retirement, Mark got this from Tom Brown at work. Back then, Mark had told Tom that when he and his wife, Chris, traveled after his retirement, he would take this recipe, and give it to everyone who was interested – so that this black bean soup recipe would be “all over the country.” Mark, here for a few days, all the way from Wisconsin, along with his wife, Chris, is making good on that promise. Seems that Tom had begun sharing it when waitresses at the restaurant where it was being served requested this soup more than any other. And so you know how it goes: a star is born, and good news travels, one bowl of soup at a time.

The soup isn’t fancy. It’s simple. And so it’s perfect, I think…like today’s breakfast, pictured above. Some might consider scrambled eggs too pedestrian for a B&B breakfast plate, (and actually, I don’t usually serve them. I like to be fancy). But some days, they’re just right, and they’re the perfect complement to the rest of what’s on the plate. Today it was a plain ‘ole potato cake, like my mother used to serve, when there were too many mashed potatoes left-over and she didn’t know what else to do with them – (and even mentioning this just now takes me back to our little kitchen with the red and white tiles on the floor, as she’s standing in front of the stove with the spatula in her hand, other hand brushing away the wisp of gray hair that had fallen into her eyes, frying up a skilletful of cakes made from left-overs). But back to the food: how can this go wrong? Taking a handful of yummy, creamy mashed potatoes, which are wonderful just the way that they are, but then slipping them into a slippery skillet, made shiny with melted butter, and frying them till they’re encased with a crisp, crunchy, crust all over. It just works. I did dress up the “pancake,” which is actually a zucchini-asiago fritter, served with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped chives; just as savory now goes with sweet, so dressed-up can go side by side with dressed-down. So as far as the pedestrian problem goes, maybe it’s really OK. Maybe it’s even better than OK. Enjoying the simple. Wonder what wonder might come from it?

…I have been thinking about existence lately. In fact, I have been so full of admiration for existence that I have hardly been able to enjoy it properly. As I was walking up to the church this morning, I passed that row of big oaks by the war memorial…and I thought of another morning, fall a year or two ago, when they were dropping teir acorns thick as hail almost. There was all sorts of thrashing in the leaves and there were acorns hitting the pavement so hard they’d fly past my head. All this in the dark, of course. I remember a slice of moon, no more than that. It was a very clear night, or morning, very still, and then there was such energy in the things transpiring among those trees, like a storm, like travail. I stood there a little out of range, and I thought, It is all still new to me. I have lived my life on the prairie and a lone of oak trees can still astonish me. (Gilead, Marilynne Robinson, pp. 56-57).

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