Joan Jobe Smith


Beans meant a lot to me when a child
disliking meat. Beans my favorite meal
my mother fixed, but my father, who’d
grown up in Texas Dust Bowl poverty
in the Great Depression where a pot of
beans meant eking out a living, not proper
food for Sunday supper, loved meat: Fat
T-bones, thick roasts, pork chops. Meat
upon his plate meaning not just luxury,
delicacy and plentitude, but mostly, so he
thought, good health, so my mother’s
weekly pot of pinto beans and corn bread
she fixed because she craved them was always
a meatless bone of contention between them.
Beans still mean a lot to me, a big pot my
favorite soup to cook for supper, even on
Sunday and especially on a cold winter day
when I’m all alone and the hot beans’ steam
fogs up the kitchen windows, encasing me,
making me feel special and wrapped up
as if I were a good news secret and I like
how the beans’ bubbling warmth actually
speaks to me and I understand every word.


At a party I held in honor of the famous poet Charles Bukowski back in 1975, I served a version of this vegetarian chili along with a meat chili. By the time Bukowski, a renowned drinking man, had drunk sufficient alcohol to get hungry, around dawn, the meat chili I’d made was gone, only a bowlful of the vegetarian chili remaining. Bukowski, however, was not inebriated enough to be fooled as I thought he might be by my claim that the cauliflower floret he spooned into his mouth was a chunk of chorizo sausage. Turned out that Charles Bukowski was a fairly knowledgeable cook himself and a budding vegetable gourmand. Earlier he’d not been fond of the festive magnums of champagne I‘d bought for him, saying to me, as if he knew for a fact: “Even Cary Grant hates champagne.“ Bukowski, though, did savor the vegetarian chili—and the cauliflower floret, too…

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or lard
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup red/purple onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons garlic, minced
2 serrano peppers or 2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 medium zucchini, diced, stem ends removed
½ cup carrots, diced
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1½ pounds crimini or button mushrooms, wiped cleaned and cubed
1 cup fresh cauliflower florets (can be omitted)
2 Tablespoons fresh chile powder
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
3 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
4 Tablespoons tomato paste
1¼ teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 quarts of cooked Joan‘s Own Almost-Texas Pinto Beans with bean broth

In large pot heat oil or lard on medium-high heat and sauté red and yellow onions until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add serranos or jalapeños and garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add zucchini, carrots, corn, mushrooms and cook, stirring until vegetables brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Add chile powder, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne, cook and stir, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add fresh tomatoes; stir well. Add 4 tablespoons tomato paste and 2 quarts pre-cooked Joan’s Own Pinto Beans with about 1 cup of bean broth (if canned beans used, drain off liquid); stir, bring up to boil. Add more water or bean broth, if needed, to become the thickness of chili you desire. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, watching carefully. Beans can burn quickly and are ruined when scorched. Turn off heat. Let set ten minutes, covered. Serve with brown rice, if desired. Other serving suggestions: Top with salsa, sour cream or plain yogurt. Garnish with cilantro leaves, diced avocado or large washed Romaine lettuce leaves as “spears” or “spoons” tucked into sides of soup bowl. Serve with corn bread, tortilla chips, Quesadillas, crusty bread, saltines or warm corn or flour tortillas.

             "...we'll all wind up link sausages on cracked china..." —Charles Bukowski