This week The Captain and I headed south to visit my parents, affectionately known to our family as Toots and Freckles. They live in Mesquite, Nevada, which is about 60 miles north of Las Vegas. I love my parents, as is demonstrated by me leaving the cool, crisp, fresh air of Southeast Alaska for the barren wasteland of the desert. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I know that Mom (aka Freckles) would never enjoy the rainforest and could not fathom what I find so endearing about 50 degree temperatures and a mist on my face. Alas, this is why I live here and she lives there.
I do enjoy visiting, though. There is something dramatically beautiful about the desert, with the painted rocks that tell the age of the world through their colorful strata. The Captain and I took my dad (aka Toots) to Valley of Fire, where we saw amazing natural wonders and even took a short walk to see the petroglyphs.
My dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and spending this special day with him filled me with joy as we strolled along the path and he reminisced about his amateur archeological days. Toots is a chatty fella and enjoys sharing information with anyone who will listen, or even those who don’t. When I tried to steer him back to me as his audience, he said, “I can’t help myself; I just like people.” I gently tried to explain that folks just aren’t as nice as they used to be, and over my shoulder I heard, “Yes they are, I’m a nice person.” I turned to see a middle-aged man, with dark hair and a big smile.
I quickly responded, “You sure are! Thank you for reminding me. I needed that!” He spent a couple of minutes visiting with my dad and went on his way to see the beautiful artwork left us by the Basket Maker and the Anasazi peoples, who visited thousands of years prior. With my faith in humanity restored, The Captain and I assisted Toots back to the car so that we could enjoy more of the beautiful fiery landscape.
When we got home, Mom had dinner just about ready. Quite a few times when I was leading a tour this past summer my guests would ask me what my favorite food is. I always responded the same: “My mom’s cooking.” I never get tired of my mom’s cooking. It evokes memories of great times, a wonderful childhood, and of my family. My mom can make anything taste great. Including lima beans.
Yep, I said lima beans. This poor legume has gotten a terrible reputation. I attribute this to television and movies in which children nearly starve themselves rather than eat this green delicacy. It seems that we are trained through the media to dislike our vegetables because they’re good for us. How dare a child like something good for him or her? It’s preposterous! Well, I can honestly say that my mom made just about anything better than good, she made it great. She still does.
Mom’s a southern belle with southern cooking skills handed down from a dozen generations back. The primary ingredient in our food is bacon or salt pork. More often salt pork. This is an inexpensive seasoning ingredient that can make shoe leather taste good. Salt pork is a fatty part of the pig that has a bit of meat, some of the rind, and most of the fat. It is used in slow cooking beans, peas, soups, and stews. The longer things are cooked in salt pork, the more savory and salty it will taste. Needless to say, you will not need any other ingredients, as salt pork will get the job done.
Southern food is simple fare. There’s no need to add a lot of this and that to make it taste right. Just think low and slow and savor the flavors of the south.
This week I present a dish that reminds me of a great childhood, and will be a new reminder of a cherished day with my father: Freckles’ Lima Beans. I encourage all of us to nurture those important relationships in our families and to savor that precious time with them. Food is memories, and memories are emotional. When I have this dish I will always remember that day at Valley of Fire with my dad, my extraordinary husband, and of the reminder that people really are nice.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
Freckles’ Lima Beans
1 bag frozen lima beans
1 4oz piece of salt pork
Pepper to taste
Place beans in medium sauce pan, add salt pork and cover with water. Cook until softened, about 30 – 40 minutes. Season to taste with pepper.