For decades I have read stories about the famed Senate Bean Soup. I had pictured the dining room of the United States Senate with famous men in suits having lunch with other famous people. Perhaps even some noteworthy constituents from ‘back home’ might be at the table. In my thoughts I was seated with a bowl of this much talked about soup and eating it while political stories were told around the table.
It will not come as a shock that often the fantasy is better than reality. So is was with the U.S. Senate Bean Soup.
Having a bowl of this soup was one of the very long list of things James and I planned to do while visiting Washington, D.C. (We live right on the edge!) Having spent time on a tour of the Capitol and being perplexed how the guide was into vamping her way about as opposed to giving solid information makes one wonder about such things as lunch. I was very much paying attention to the sights and taking it all in but had to tune out the guide who was trying to gloss over the dreadful ways native peoples of this land were treated. Her presentation made me wish for silence. History was not her strong suit.
So it was later that day when James and I went to the public cafeteria to eat that I ordered a bowl of the famed soup. I ordered garlic bread and some fruit and was most excited about being close to my first mouthful of what I had long read about.
The soup is made with navy beans, ham hocks, and onion. So far so good. I had read that the original version included celery, garlic, parsley, and mashed potatoes as well. I suggest they might want to heed the ideas contained in that long-ago recipe as the soup was very weak on flavor.
While the soup started out as a tradition in the early part of last century the genesis of it is murky. The day of our meal at the Capitol it was noted that on September 14, 1943, rationing was underway due to World War II. The kitchen in the senate dining room was facing the same hardships as many homes did around the country. Newspapers at the time reported on the shortage of navy beans and through some public-relations maneuver beans were found and the senate kitchen was able to make soup. That soup tradition continues today.
Dear reader, do not get me wrong about having this opportunity to have this soup for our lunch. Tradition matters in my code of life, and it was grand to eat the soup. But spices are also grand. Perhaps the soup tastes better with a senator at the table.