Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Beans and Cornbread Controversy

Beans and cornbread have been a staple in our house for years.  Growing up it was one of my favorite meals that my grandma cooked.  She usually served it with fried potatoes which made it even better.  For those that don't know the beans are usually brown beans (pinto beans) cooked with a ham bone or if you don't have a ham bone I use bacon grease.  You can do them from dried beans - soak and then cook them until tender with the ham bone and salt or bacon grease and salt.  My grandma always used Randall beans from a jar.

It was not until my husband and my dad were talking shortly after we were married that I realized not everyone ate beans and cornbread the way we do. My husband was with me at my grandma's and my dad asked him if he wanted some beans and cornbread.  To which my husband answered the now infamous answer, "I've had beans.  And I've had cornbread, but I've never had beans AND cornbread."

You see my husband would have beans and maybe cornbread on the side, but we do things quite differently.  We start out with a bowl and then we take a piece of cornbread and break it up in the bowl and then we pour our beans on top of our cornbread.  My husband thought this was odd and now whenever beans and cornbread are brought up, my dad says this to my husband, "I've had beans.  And I've had cornbread, but I've never had beans AND cornbread." and it drives him crazy.  But we all think its funny.

I wasn't sure how far reaching this way of eating beans and cornbread reached.  I assumed it was a southern tradition since my grandparents are from Tennessee and that is where we learned to eat it.  But I was talking to my husband's aunt over the weekend and she told us her son-in-law did the strangest thing.  She explained they were having beans and cornbread and then she went on to tell us that he broke up his cornbread and put that in his bowl and then poured the beans on top of that.  Well, of course my husband and I looked at each other and I started cracking up.

Then I had to find out if this was a regional thing and I have come to the conclusion that people east and south of the Missouri River do eat their cornbread in their beans and people west of it don't.  Of course I only polled 10 people.

Now I must know - how do you eat your beans and cornbread?

Of course I should note that this won't work with sweet cornbread.  We make our cornbread like my grandma, not sweet and in a cast iron skillet.


  1. It's not a tradition here in MN but they are two of my favorite things and I would LOVE it. I love cornbread with my chili (which is mostly beans) I love any kind of beans. What kind of beans are these?

    I would have answered grandma with an emphatic YES! Poor hubby will never live that down.

  2. @Debbi Does Dinner Healthy
    I updated the post to link to the recipe and to explain the beans a little more. I forget they might not be popular in the north. They are a very simple dish. You would probably like them.

  3. We like cornbread with chili... but I only make sweet corn bread/muffins (Betty Crocker) - at least I guess it's sweet: it has sugar in it? Matt breaks his cornbread up in the chili, but I don't like to mix.

  4. Definitely cornbread is meant to be in the beans with lots of bean soup to boot! Now that's how we do it in Alabama/Mississippi. If you have some collard greens on the side to go with it more's the better! Also add a slice of onion and heavens above that's good eating.

  5. This was a staple in our house. I think my mom seasoned hers with "fatback" that sounds horrible doesn't it... but thats what they called it. We always had cornbread and fried potatoes with it. And the cornbread was only made in a cast iron skillet..couldn't be anything else. We are from the southwest part of Virginia. One time I made extra and brought some into work for a friend who was from Oregon because he said he had never heard of such a thing...

  6. We also mixed them and as a kid, it was probably my number one protest food. My brother and I both detested beans and cornbread nights, and put ketchup all over it just to get it down. :) I'm sure yours is a ton better and probably worth trying though.

  7. I don't do beans or cornbread but my hubby would eat them any way they are served! He is definitely from the NORTH and so is his family!

  8. I'm not a mixer. I like to taste each item for it's own distinct complexity... ha! no- really, I just don't like to mix the two. But Josh and his sister both break up the cornbread & put them in the beans. However, I usually don't make cornbread because nobody in my family is really a fan of it...too dry and crumbly. (no matter what recipe I use, we just don't like it) I usually make homemade white or sourdough bread with my ham & beans. Everyone loves this, and usually the bread is dipped into the beans, almost as if the bread is serving as the spoon.

  9. @Katy
    Sweet cornbread usually is sweet and has a softer texture than the cornbread we make. It is more muffin-like.

  10. @musemater
    Oh yes, that is exactly how my grandma ate it except they liked turnip greens with a slice of onion on the side. My grandma ate a slice of onion with everything.

  11. @Meg
    Yes, ma'am, I have never made my cornbread in anything but a cast iron skillet. I don't think it would turn out nearly as good. I totally agree with you!

  12. @Lindsey
    I will try to remember to bring you a little of my beans and cornbread but I won't make you eat it if you don't like it:)

  13. @Anna
    They are pretty good and a very frugal meal too.

  14. @Sarah
    Somehow I just don't think bread would be the same but I guess we like our cornbread dry and crumbly - although mine really isn't that dry but it works well for the bean soup.

  15. I'm sorry to say this, but I really never had a variety of beans, except green beans. I have only in the last 10 years or so (since I started eating a more varied and experimental menu, and cooking myself) starting trying beans. I'm pretty adventurous with other foods in general, but the texture of beans really gets me. I guess I should try them again! Hope you are feeling a bit better soon.


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