A Navy Bean Pie, which was sold along Stony Island Ave. near 79th and South Chicago Ave., on Friday, July 20, 2012, in Chicago. | Chandler West~Sun-Times
Updated: December 15, 2012 6:04AM
Only once did I send a restaurant dish back to the kitchen. It was a bowl of pumpkin soup that was properly made, I guess, but still inedible.
Since then, pumpkin and I have not been friends.
On Thanksgiving, I will, again, steadfastly refuse to bow to around-the-table peer pressure by eating the orange gourd tart. For Thanksgiving, instead of pumpkin, I’m making and eating bean pie.
Admittedly, a pie of beans gives pause to some eaters.
Chicago culinary historian Catherine Lambrecht served a bean pie at an event and reported: “One taster demanded to know what it was before eating. Once they knew it was bean, people tasted it more guardedly.”
There is at least one other place, besides my Thanksgiving dessert plate, where you’ll find bean pie. At 79th and Stony Island, Nation of Islam members sell their popular bean pies to motorists waiting at the light.
Bean pies received a boost from Elijah Muhammad, who lead the Nation of Islam from 1934 until 1975. In keeping with Islamic dietary code, Muhammad forbade pork, of course, but he had problems with some other foods as well, including sweet potato and most beans.
He did, however, actively promote navy beans. In his book How to Eat, Mohammed says that “This bean He (God) valued to be very high in protein, fats and starches, and it is a safe food for prolonging life.”
Pies from Supreme Bean (get it?!) have been prepared at Muhammad’s University of Islam in Chicago. Listed ingredients include navy beans, evaporated milk, butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, margarine, unbleached and wheat flours, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
Bean pie spicing is almost identical to that of pumpkin pie. Texturally, however, bean pie can be much more pleasing than pumpkin pie.
To prepare bean pie, I roughly mash navy beans, leaving hunks of legume randomly scattered throughout for an agreeably firm though variable texture (I find the custardy consistency of pumpkin pie particularly abhorrent, reminiscent of something one shouldn’t be eating).
Whipped cream makes it prettier and tastier.
If you’d rather have bean pies made by professionals, the man who sells at 79th and Stony Island (and prefers anonymity) told me he’ll be out there with his pies “around Thanksgiving.”
David Hammond is an Oak Park writer and contributor to WBEZ (91.5 FM) and LTHForum.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.