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Unexpected guests call for a hearty meal

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Posted: Monday, January 6, 2014 10:01 am

One New Year’s Day when I was a little girl, the doorbell rang. Curious, I stood behind my mother as she opened the door. Standing on the front porch five people were singing “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

The unexpected carolers were shirt-tail relatives we hadn’t seen in some time. My mother welcomed them inside and hugs and kisses were exchanged. Winter wraps were hung in the coat closet and I ushered the three kids to my bedroom to play.

Looking back, I can only imagine what was going through my mother’s head. Five extra people for dinner when her pantry was as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s. It was in the early 50’s when there wasn’t a fast food concession on every corner and grocery stores and most restaurants were closed on holidays.

I must give my mother credit, as when we were called for dinner an ironed linen tablecloth, with matching napkins, bone china, and the good silver adorned the table. Candles in crystal candelabra stood tall and stately amid an arrangement of snips of holly with red berries my mother had clipped from the bush on the side of the house.

As we all settled into our places around the table, my mother the last to be seated after she set a large soup tureen in front of my father. At his command, we bowed our heads to say grace. When the prayer was complete, the festive clink of silverware and passing of plates punctuated with rounds of joyous laughter and friendly camaraderie filled the house. That New Year’s Day so long ago, was no different than any other holiday meal, except for the menu. There was no ham or turkey, but I remember my father ceremoniously raising a large soup ladle with his usual pomp and circumstance where he stood at the head of the table. I saw him wink at my mother, then “Pass the bowls,” he said as he dipped the ladle deep inside the steaming tureen bringing up a ladle full of white navy beans. Everyone ate with gusto and seconds and even thirds kept coming out of the serving dish. My mother made the best of the situation of unexpected guests that New Year’s Day.

2014’s crock pot New Year’s Day navy bean soup

1/2 pound white navy beans

6 cups water

1 large onion (diced)

1-1/2 teaspoons celery salt

4 carrots (sliced)

1 bay leaf

Salt & pepper to taste

Optional: ham hock, leftover diced cooked bacon or ham

• Soak beans overnight.

• Place all ingredients in crock pot.

• Cook on high for 4 hours.

• Serve with sour dough bread.

Yield – 8 servings

Bernadine Chapman-Cruz is a contributing writer for Big Monkey Group Publications. Raised in Stockton, she lives in Lodi with her husband, a cat named "L" and dog, "Forest." She enjoys writing, cooking and dining out.

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