Historic Recipe: Senate Bean Soup (1965)

Source: Saucepans & the Single Girl; Bachelor-bait Recipes and Dazzling Ideas for Entertaining by Jinx Morgan and Judy Perry (1965)

This book was a Christmas present and it’s very American and very 1965 in tone. First up it can’t decide between female liberation and traditional gender roles (not that you can’t have both, but that’s not what this book is suggesting). In one breath it’s all ‘yay, independence, women working and living together on their own’ and in the next ‘the way to a man’s heart is to cook for him and then you can get married and settle down and finally BE HAPPY’. It also thinks easy cooking involves cooking almost exclusively from tins, because in 1965 that was cool. Until I read this book I had no idea that you could buy all of your cooking ingredients either tinned or frozen – tinned prawns anyone? No, I thought not.

The book is handily divided into sections including ‘Commonplace Cuisine’ for when you are cooking for yourself and ‘Food Fit for…’ which is a series of menus for the possible men in your life such as the ‘Man’s Man’, the ‘Man with a Million’ and the ‘Amorous Athlete’. This recipe comes from ‘Lover with a Leica’ which turns out is just an alliterative way of saying ‘reporter for the local rag’. It is also probably the recipe in the book with the least tinned ingredients because I have struggled to track down some of the things listed in other recipes. It is suggested that you serve this with wilted spinach salad (which to give it its credit has bacon in it) and garlic bread.

1 cup navy beans
1½ quarts water
1 meaty ham bone
¼ cup instant mashed potatoes
½ cup finely chopped onions
3 finely chopped celery stalks with leaves
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/8 cup finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight in water. Add ham bone, cover, and simmer until beans are just beginning to soften (about 1 hour). Add mashed potatoes and stir until smooth. Add onion, celery, garlic, and parsley, and simmer another hour until beans are soft. Add more water if needed, but soup should be very thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Should serve about 4, but our friend used to be able to finish the pot.

In the spirit of the book I used tinned beans instead of dried ones (after I had googled navy beans and discovered it was American for haricot beans), so I jumped right in at the adding all the ingredients stage. I put the beans into boiling water with the ham bone and added the mash. I have never bought instant mash before because it scares me. Potatoes should not be an instant foodstuff, but it turns out it’s surprisingly easy to use, hence its appeal, I assume. I chucked in all the other ingredients along with some pepper and left it simmering on the stove for a little less than an hour, stirring occasionally.

The result looked pretty revolting to be honest, a sort of thick, sticky, pallid broth that reminded me of wallpaper paste. So much so that I was rather loathe to try it, surprisingly it turned out to be really good and I definitely went back for seconds.

Suggested alterations: I don’t know, something that adds colour? You could definitely include other beans for variety, so maybe kidney beans? It would also be simpler to forget the ham bone and use a stock cube.

Final verdict: Tasty and filling but in no way aesthetically pleasing. I would definitely not cook this for a date


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