Reunite the Nation
few of us who would like to go to our graves with tombstones that read,
“Here lies a man who put forth his fullest effort so that mankind might
have never come together for good purpose.” Nearly all of us yearn to be
remembered as someone who brought together humanity, who saw good in
unity and bad in disharmony.
Most of us
quickly realize that we are not cut out for this. Whether it’s an
aptitude for mathematics or for misanthropy, few of us will be
remembered for having brought people together.
imaginations provide us a keen opportunity to play God, however. We
might not be able to unite people in a physical sense, but we are free
to borrow devices from Hollywood and bring together symbols of people.
In this way, we can heal lingering scars from the American Civil War.
as we so often do, by soaking beans. For this, we use the Great Northern
bean. Why this one? Well, if you wish to unite a nation ripped in
sunder, you must combine its best parts. The Great Northern bean is a
hard-working bean, a bean with a personality as practical as the
northern Midwesterners who grow it. You may shut it into a pot of water
overnight, and it will understand what is expected of it. It will soak
in the water, swell, and prepare itself for cooking the next day.
boil chicken, a meat as unlikely to open historic wounds as any (with
the possible exception of ham). You may pick your cut, but the wise
understand that it is best to do this thing while the meat is still
attached to the bone.
for this is simple. Boil water, add chicken, wait a few moments. When
chicken is mostly cooked (exactitude is not needed, because the chicken
meat will soon enough find itself immersed in hot liquid), remove it
from the water and allow it to cool. Place the cooling water in the
refrigerator for a few moments.
chicken has cooled, pull it off the bone and shred it. Set this aside.
refrigerator, the fat and grease will have formed a scum on top on your
cooking water. Scrape this away. Scum is an impediment to rebuilding
liquid to boiling and add the beans. Each bean, full of its Midwestern
sense of sobriety, will go about fulfilling its purpose, bathing in
boiling water until softened.
separate pan, it is time to start to build our Southern foundation, by
softening garlic and onion in olive oil. Add stewed tomatoes, cayenne
pepper and a bay leaf. Stir these up and ask yourself what might give
this dish a distinctive Southern touch.
Okra - or,
if you were to speak certain African languages - gumbo.
strikes you . . . what about frozen corn? Yes, my friend, frozen corn
has a place here also.
you begin to see your destiny. You will unite the nation under the
banner of soup – southern-flavored stew and Great Northern beans.
together all of your vegetables and also your chicken. Allow this to
bubble while the beans cook. It is almost as though the two pots of
ingredients are speaking to each other, perhaps hosting yet another
Constitutional Convention, except this time with tastier results.
You are now
looking at me through your mind’s eye. There is something puzzling you,
something that you cannot put your fingers on. Yes, you again come to
understand – isn’t there usually some kind of shrimp involved?
No, this is
no Yankee double-cross. Add cooked shrimp when the beans are nearly
strike you that this is done to prevent the shrimp from becoming
overcooked and rubbery, but this is not the case. Once the shrimp is
added, from your pan of bubbling comes the sound of music – the shrimp
and okra have broken out washboard and accordion for an impromptu zydeco
session. Your beans can hear this, and although the Great Northern is a
stoic bean, it has its own feelings and yearnings. It doesn’t want to
work through too much of the party.
wishes. Remove your beans from the burner, drain and allow them to join
the party. Look at your pot. The only way it could be any more a melting
pot is if it were blasted to the limits of its ability to retain solid
form in heat.
feedback on this column,
© 2007 North Star Writers
Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
is Column # EB21.
Request permission to publish here.