In 1973, whilst compiling the book, “John Keats’s Porridge: Favorite Recipes of American Poets,” Victoria McCabe asked the author and poet Edward Abbey to contribute his favourite recipe to the project. Thankfully, he agreed, and soon responded with the following — a recipe for “Hardcase Survival Pinto Bean Sludge,” a potful of which could “feed one poet for two full weeks at a cost of about $11.45.”
19 May 1973
Herewith my bit for your cookbook. This recipe is not original but a variation on an old (perhaps ancient) Southwestern dish. It has also been a favorite of mine and was for many years the staple, the sole staple, of my personal nutritional program. (I am six feet three and weigh 190 pounds, sober.)
I call it Hardcase Survival Pinto Bean Sludge.
1. Take one fifty-pound sack Colorado pinto beans. Remove stones, cockleburs, horseshit, ants, lizards, etc. Wash in clear cold crick water. Soak for twenty-four hours in iron kettle or earthenware cooking pot. (DO NOT USE TEFLON, ALUMINUM OR PYREX CONTAINER. THIS WARNING CANNOT BE OVERSTRESSED.)
2. Place kettle or pot with entire fifty lbs. of pinto beans on low fire and simmer for twenty-four hours. (DO NOT POUR OFF WATER IN WHICH BEANS HAVE BEEN IMMERSED. THIS IS IMPORTANT.) Fire must be of juniper, pinyon pine, mesquite or ironwood; other fuels tend to modify the subtle flavor and delicate aroma of Pinto Bean Sludge.
3. DO NOT BOIL.
4. STIR VIGOROUSLY FROM TIME TO TIME WITH WOODEN SPOON OR IRON LADLE. (Do not disregard these instructions.)
5. After simmering on low fire for twenty-four hours, add one gallon green chile peppers. Stir vigorously. Add one quart natural (non-iodized) pure sea salt. Add black pepper. Stir some more and throw in additional flavoring materials, as desired, such as old bacon rinds, corncobs, salt pork, hog jowls, kidney stones, ham hocks, sowbelly, saddle blankets, jungle boots, worn-out tennis shoes, cinch straps, whatnot, use your own judgment. Simmer an additional twenty-four hours.
6. Now ladle as many servings as desired from pot but do not remove pot from fire. Allow to simmer continuously for hours, days or weeks if necessary, until all contents have been thoroughly consumed. Continue to stir vigorously, whenever in vicinity or whenever you think of it.
7. Serve Pinto Bean Sludge on large flat stones or on any convenient fairly level surface. Garnish liberally with parsley flakes. Slather generously with raw ketchup. Sprinkle with endive, anchovy crumbs and boiled cruets and eat hearty.
8. One potful Pinto Bean Sludge, as above specified, will feed one poet for two full weeks at a cost of about $11.45 at current prices. Annual costs less than $300.
9. The philosopher Pythagoras found flatulence incompatible with meditation and therefore urged his followers not to eat beans. I have found, however, that custom and thorough cooking will alleviate this problem.
Yrs, Edward Abbey—Tucson