Pinto bean festival could hit just the right note

November 15, 2018

I’m going to lay it on the line right off the bat.

Huntington needs a pinto bean festival.

Look online and you will see there are only two pinto bean festivals in the United States.

One of them is in Moriarty City Park in Moriarty, New Mexico.

The other is in Mountain View, Arkansas, where “thousands flock to enjoy the 2,000 lbs. of pinto beans stewing in giant cast iron cauldrons.”

Chili fests? There are dozens of them. Same with Italian festivals. Craft beer festivals? All over America. Hot dog festivals? Give me a break.

Don’t get rid of the homage to chili, spaghetti, hot dogs and beer. They all have their place.

Just add a festival dedicated to West Virginia’s favorite old-time cultural food — pinto beans — and cornbread, of course.

Anyone over the age of 40 in these parts remember eating pinto beans — sometimes many times a week — and usually with cornbread. If they didn’t care for pinto beans, the 40-year-olds remember their moms cooking them for the family.

There’s an irony in our yearning for these dried brown beans. As far as I know there’s not a farmer in West Virginia who grows them. My wife had an uncle in Michigan who raised hundreds of acres of pinto beans and probably shipped tons of them to Mountain Mama.

I don’t remember when I had my first bite of pinto beans. I suspect it was on a Monday when my mama washed clothes and hung them out to dry. No automatic washer. No dryer.

She’d start soaking the beans on Sunday night and put them on to cook on Monday morning with a piece of fatback bacon.

They would cook all day while she did her Monday routine. Then an hour or so before dinner, she’d make cornbread. For, you see, pinto beans are no good without cornbread.

Those old folks were smart. I learned later that the partial proteins found in pinto beans and the partial proteins found in corn make complete proteins, as good as the protein found in meat.

Back in those days, kids couldn’t turn their noses up at what was on the dinner table. So on Mondays it was pinto beans and cornbread or nothing.

For dessert, she offered what she called a “busy day cake.” I’d love to have the recipe for it.

In later life, my wife and I cooked pinto beans but our son doesn’t like them. Too bad.

A pinto bean festival would be perfect for Huntington or any town in West Virginia. But it’s unlikely it will ever happen. I can’t see Huntington’s cognoscenti allowing it. They would probably find a pinto bean festival quite pedestrian, commonplace, unimaginative.

But I suspect it would be a big hit after people got over the idea that it’s not shameful to like pinto beans.

Huntington could do it the Mountain View, Arkansas, way and boil the beans in monstrous cast iron pots. But I think the better way would be to have a contest to see who can make the best pinto beans and cornbread a la Chilifest.

Too bad my mama isn’t still alive. She’d win hands down.

Now, repeat after me:

“Beans, beans the musical fruit ...”

Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is davepeyton@comcast.net.

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