Just a Bowl of Butterbeans

In the past week or two, I’ve had a couple of friends discussing favorite foods and they have asked me what “my people” ate.  Do I eat grits?  Yes.  Do I like okra?  Anyway you want to serve it–absolutely!  Chopped onions on my black-eyed peas?  Step back and watch me go.  Do I love buttermilk and cornbread?  While I know this used to be supper for my Daddy and his family sometimes and it’ll eat okay, my favorite is really cornbread and pot liquor.  I love fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and a big ol’ bowl of grits.  When the garden was in season it was not unusual for a pot of fresh picked snap beans with red potatoes and onions to be our supper with a slab of cornbread on the side.  I love me some home-cooked vegetables.

And this right here, this is my ultimate comfort food.

IMG_4361

Just a bowl of butterbeans.

And it’s not surprising really.

The memories in a bowl of these–feeds my soul for quite a while.

Of helping Daddy plant the garden.  Of beans drying on the floor in my Granny’s “cold” room in the winter for spring planting.  Of sitting in comfortable silence with Daddy when we picked–or having gentle conversation, as easy as the breeze that lightly blew in the evening air.  Of sitting with a fan blowing on us to help relieve the heat as Mama and I shelled them into a washtub.  Of watching Mama blanch the beans and put them on the towel to cool for freezing.  Of the times all I wanted to eat was a bowl of butterbeans.

Oh me.

I’ve been eating on this pot of butterbeans I cooked for a couple of days now.  And today it hit me what this weekend is and why I might need comfort a little more than usual.  My Daddy went in the hospital for the first leg of his battle against his Goliath five years ago this weekend.  Five years?  How can that be when I remember the details of that day so clearly?  How I made the calls and cried in the dark and told my brother I could not breathe if my Daddy was gone.

Just a bowl of butterbeans.

Here I am, five years later, and well, I guess I know better.  Daddy left this life over two years after that, but he is not gone.  He is in the summer evening breezes and the memory of conversations we used to have sitting outside watching the sun go down and swatting gnats.  He is in the music I listen to, the good stuff he raised me listening to.  He is in the couch sitting over there, so full of comfort because that’s the last place I sat next to him before it all fell apart.  He is in the yard I gaze out over, remembering his vision for it and how he helped us move here.  He is in the children I love as I see in them his eyes or smile or recognize his wit and his frustration with folks when they just won’t do right.  He is in the bowl of butterbeans and all the memories that swirl amidst the beans and pot liquor.  He is in my heart.

Gone?  Never.

The food of my people was the good stuff.  Things from the garden or pasture or barn with a can of Vienna sausages or a fried Spam sandwich thrown in for a snack every now and then.  The soul of my people can be found in the fields, in the breezes, in the songs of the birds as they fly from the cedar tree to the fig tree where Granny had hung pie tins to run them off.  It is in the sandpile where we built froghouses and on the dirt road where we walked and rode bikes and threw dirt bombs at each other.  It is in the memories, and I give thanks my soul is very full.

As I was eating my bowl of butterbeans today, a song blew in and began playing in my mind.  I thought for a moment.  Was it a real song or had I only imagined it?  It’s been so long since I thought of it.

And so I did some digging–thankful for the internet, right?–and there it was.  Waiting for me, patiently, like an old friend.  It’s not my Daddy’s voice singing it–but the joy of the little girls dancing, the agility of the couples enjoying the song, and the fact that this Daddy and child have been performing together over sixty years…..it comes in a close second.

Hope y’all enjoy it too.  Love and the goodness of a bowl of butterbeans to all.

 

BUTTER BEANS (Charles D. Colvin – To the tune of “Just A Closer Walk With Thee)

Little Jimmy Dickens – 1965

Also recorded by: Johnny Russell; Papa Joe Smiddy.

 

Just a bowl of butter beans

Pass the cornbread if you please

I don’t want no collard greens

All I want is a bowl of butter beans

 

Just a piece of country ham

Pass the butter and the jam

Pass the biscuits if you please

And some more o’ them good ol’ butter beans

 

Red eye gravy is all right

Turnip sandwich a delight

But my children all still scream

For another bowl of butter beans

 

Some folks think that cornpone’s best

Some likes grits more than the rest

But if I was a man of means

I’d just want them good ol’ butter beans

 

See that lady over there

With the curlers in her hair

She’s not pregnant as she seems

She’s just full o’ them good ol’ butter beans

 

See that big, fat, ugly lad

He’s made everybody mad

They don’t love him, by no means

He’s the hog that ate the last of the butter beans

 

When they lay my bones to rest

Place no roses upon my chest

Plant no blooming evergreens

All I want is’ a bowl of butter beans

 

Just a bowl of butter beans

Pass the cornbread if you please

I don’t want no collard greens

All I want is a bowl of butter beans

 

 

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