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Beans, beans, the magical meal

There were few things my father and I agreed on back when we were struggling through my teenage years. For some reason, I considered myself much more “knowledgeable” than he. There was one thing, however, that we never argued over – Mom’s senate bean soup. It was the greatest!

Isn’t that something. I think back 60 years and bean soup comes to mind. It wasn’t that I was a great eater as a teenager. Heck, that was probably one of the last things on my mind. And it wasn’t that my mother was a one recipe person. She was known throughout the lefse belt as a great cook. (Which is quite remarkable as she was Pennsylvania Dutch, not Norwegian.) But Mom could really put together a great meal. Not that she had much time to hone her craft, what with publishing a newspaper every week (along with trying to keep a wild teenager under wraps.) Yet each evening she would present a wonderful meal to the men of her life – Dad and I.

Although the main course varied considerably, every once in a while she would treat us to a huge bowl of senate bean soup.

I could tell long before sitting down to the table what was on the menu that night. She would slowly cook the beans that afternoon. By the time I walked in the door after school, the house had taken on the wondrous aroma of simmering navy beans.

While the beans and ham hock gently boiled, Mom would chop and saute a large onion in butter. She would put them all together and soon we would sit down to a feast fit for a king or, at least, a senator.

Over the years, I often wondered where the name “senate bean soup” originated. Mom told me once that she found the recipe in a White House cookbook but that was the only explanation she ever gave.

Recently, with all knowledge just a keystroke away, I decided to google senate bean soup. What I found was truly quite remarkable. According to the Senate website, the Senate restaurant serves bean soup every day. (It didn’t say whether that’s “every day” as far as we the common folk are concerned or “every day” as far as the days the Senate is working (which is far from “every day”.)

Anyway, according to one story, which states that a Senator from Minnesota introduced it to the Senate, the tradition of senate bean soup dates back to 1903. Another credits an Idaho Senator. Both versions emphasize that bean soup has been on the menu of the Senate restaurant every day for well over 100 years.

As I mentioned earlier … this is truly remarkable. In this day and age, I have actually discovered something the Senate seems to agree on. (And I thought it was something when Dad and I agreed 60 years ago!)

(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)

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