Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mysteries of Bodie Beans

Even though I don't cook many vintage recipes, I do like cooking. I am not one for following directions, though-- I don't eat a lot and can only deal with so many leftovers, so the first thing I do with any new recipe is halve it. Then I'll realize that it calls for bell peppers, but I'm out of them, so I'll substitute green beans or mushrooms or whatever vegetables I have in the freezer. The recipe will look bland, so I'll double the spices and throw in something new, probably oregano or cilantro... You get the idea. By the time I'm done cooking, it bears almost no resemblance to the recipe I was "following." I love today's recipe because it narrates a similar approach to cooking in such an intimate, informal way:

There is so much good stuff here that I don't know where to start.... Even the ingredient list is great. "One large can -- 30 ounces I guess -- of peeled tomatoes." I love the thorough fact-checking there. Maybe the writer could have gone through the trash to look at the can or checked the pantry to see if there was another can of the same size, but that would be too much trouble. The people who will use a recipe like this don't need exact measurements anyway.

I'm totally baffled by the little list at the end of the ingredients, too: "I also found other things, eggs, bacon, orange juice, potato chips, etc., etc., but the dinner dish type things are listed above." I don't know where this writer was looking-- apparently at lists of similar recipes, trying to put them together to make a master recipe? The recipe DOES include bacon, but the list at the bottom of the page seems to suggest it doesn't. While I can get the logic of supposing that eggs or orange juice might be more breakfast-y, I'm not sure why potato chips as an ingredient wouldn't seem like "dinner dish type things."

Then the instructions! The writer "fiddled this thing together" in a cast-iron skillet. I love the emphasis on frying the onion and bell pepper "until they were BROWN." I also love the narration of dumping various ingredients in, tasting them, and thinking, "Not bad!" Then while "the whole mess" cooked, the writer had time to spin stories and get the inspiration to add "about a teacup full of the Bodie spring water." The spring water is the secret, too. If you want to make authentic Bodie Beans, you will have to 'load up your travel trailer, truck, or motor home and head for Bodie."

That might be especially hard for modern readers, as the recipe doesn't indicate where Bodie might be. There's a Bodie, California, but I don't see mention of springs. There's a Bodie House near Eureka Springs in Arkansas. There's a Bodie Island in North Carolina. My internet searches are not helping much.

The only clue I have about the origin of this recipe comes at the bottom of the page:

Maybe this was written by Phil Cole or someone who knew him well enough to want to help advertise his book? The publisher is in Kentucky (and the language certainly makes it easy to imagine the writer is from Kentucky!), but I haven't had much luck finding any Bodie, Kentucky, through Google searches. The mystery remains. Apparently the good lord was willin and the crick (!) didn't rise, because Phil Cole's book did come out. (My internet searches date it as 1981 or 1986-- not sure why there was a discrepancy.) That's the only clue I have about the date of this recipe, so it was probably from around 1980 or '85. It's just a loose page that was stuffed into a copy of The Service Cook Book by Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen (1933), but this recipe is obviously a lot newer than the book.

If anybody can solve the mystery of Bodie Beans, let me know!


  1. Hi Poppy!
    Both you and this recipe remind me of my style of cooking. I must say though I think many people cook the same way but they just don't document it by actually writing it down, lol...

    I don't want to throw a wrench into your Bodie hunt but for some reason, I think the recipe may have some coneection to Virginia. I once worked with a woman from Virginia who lived to the ripe age of 95. She always use to say that phrase which is where I learned it from and have often said on my blog and she said she was in such excellent health because when she was a child, the only water she ever drank was Bodie Spring Water, lol...Her father had a distillery and insisted on using it in his beer, lol...I suppose the mystery continues though because as you said, the publisher is from Kentucky!

    Thanks for sharing, Poppy...

    1. That could be it! Your guess sounds better than any of mine.

    2. I'd love to do a bit more investigating Poppy but time just doesn't allow it:)

  2. Wow! Why can't all receipes be this insightful?

    1. There is something very reassuring about having a recipe written the way the writer actually made it. The casual tone makes it feel kind of like you can't screw up if you try it.

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