I’m back in Ridgeland, South Carolina sort of on a retreat after my whirlwind spring and summer attending the Chicago Community Kitchens’ culinary boot camp program, completing my internship, and working a temp assignment at the Carole Robertson Center for Learning as a food service worker.
When I came to visit in February one of my most memorable dishes was butter beans at Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s on Main St. here in Ridgeland. If you’ve read anything about my background on my website, you’ll know that I grew-up in Pittsburgh, PA in a family with a long Pennsylvania food history. My grandmother fixed lima beans with ham and lots of sugar. Never even heard of butter beans until late in life and had never prepared them.
I called my friend Sandra yesterday to chat and just before I got off the phone with her I asked if she ever made butter beans. She’s from Virginia and is well versed in southern cuisine. “Sure” she said. Okay, so how do you fix them?, I asked. Well, you put some salt pork in some water, simmer it for a while until you get a nice flavorful broth, add your butter beans and keep simmering until they’re nice and tender and melt in your mouth like butter. That’s all?, I asked. Yep. And they’re the best when you can get them fresh, in season. Nothing else? Maybe some black pepper, but that’s it.”
I followed her directions and sure enough I had the flavorful, melt in your mouth butter beans I had experienced in February. But I was sure I could kick them up a notch if I added some onion and garlic. So I made another batch with my additions. Nope. The first batch with nothing but salt pork and a little black pepper at the end were the best and tasted like what I remembered at Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s.
Simplicity at it’s best!