Dining like the Ancient Ones

With the chill in the air, my wife Chris and I were in the notion for some down home, satisfying, comfort food. Nothing is more country and down home than good old fashion beans and cornbread. Yes, I’m talking really old fashion as we’re not cooking up modern-day beans, we would be dining like the Ancient Ones.

While on vacation out West years ago, we came across an ancient Native American staple we absolutely love—Anasazi beans.

The story behind the legendary legume is the tale of the Southwestern Native American tribe, the Anasazi, also known by later tribes as the Ancient Ones or Ancient Enemies. The Anasazi were cliff dwellers who initially lived in the fertile valleys of the Southwest starting around 750 A.D. As time progressed, the Anasazi began to move away from the valley floors and moved toward isolated cliff dwelling. By 1400 A.D., the Anasazi had retreated to living completely in high, fortified and inaccessible houses far above the valley floors.

Some scholars speculate the Anasazi drifted away slowly and became part of other existing Native American cultures. However, ancient Navajo legend says their tribe ventured into Anasazi territory to find their cliff dwellings abandoned. Their granaries were full, and their pots were still in the cooking fire rings. The Navajo could find no trace of them and migrated into Anasazi territory. The Ancient Ones had simply and mysteriously disappeared.

Years later, white settlers found the hearty bean once cultivated by the Anasazi growing wild. Today’s Anasazi beans originated from early finds of the wild growing staple.

The beans are quickly cooked, need no presoaking and are tasty and nutritious. One pound of beans are rinsed and placed in 6 or 7 cups of water, and slowly simmered for 2 hours. Then add in a couple smoked ham hocks, a small coarsely chopped onion, a tablespoon of minced garlic and let the beans simmer for another 2 hours. Salt and pepper to taste.

Combined with a skillet of cornbread, it makes for a great campfire feast or dinner table meal.

Anasazi beans are available through Amazon.com or Adobemilling.com. They are also available off the shelf at many national parks out West and Western Native American cultural centers.