Voice & Vision
Beans. They’ve been eaten by humans for thousands of years. They’re a food source that has deep roots in so many cultures. Indeed, fabada—a white bean stew—is unofficially the marque dish of the Asturias region in Spain. Some say Asturians started eating the stew in protest of the Moors (it contains pork, which the Moors did not eat), and the protest grew into rebellion—Asturians ultimately repelled the Moors, perhaps it was the beans that did the job? Another example of the importance of beans is feijoada. This black bean stew is so cherished in Brazil that it has been deemed the country’s national dish.
Closer to home for us, Hoppin’ John is an iconic beans-and-rice dish of the Carolina lowcountry, and has deep traditions in all of the American South. As is the case with many “American” dishes, Hoppin’ John is of African origin. Human beings, though forced into slavery and unimaginable suffering, found a way to preserve their traditions by introducing their bean and rice making on their captor’s land. They also brought beans and rice with them, which became key agricultural crops in the lowcountry.
This little meditation/exploration of beans (yes, it barely even skims the surface) is not just an aimless flitter through my mind. Rather, it is part of a larger discourse we’ve been having here at Courthouse Creek. We are in the midst of really finding our voice, and honing our vision, after seven years of orcharding, making cider, and building out our farm and tasting room. This is different than “knowing your why” Rather, this is about putting all the pieces together so that they work in harmony, so that they capture our sense of place. It is the attempt to manifest the metaphysical concept of terrior. So, beans? Well, first, cider.
We grow apple trees, and we make cider in the natural method. This minimal intervention approach produces ciders that are somewhat (I said, somewhat) reminiscent of Asturian sidra, or Basque sagardoa. Our cider is meant to be enjoyed with food (aren’t all wines supposed to be enjoyed with food?), and many of the food traditions found in the Asturias and Basque regions tend to pair really well with our cider. Yes, dishes like fabada go together with our cider like, well, peas in a pod? But, we are not in Spain. We are in Virginia, in the American South. And where we are manifests itself in our soil, the things we grow, the air we breathe, the people we meet, the apples we grow—you get the idea. For us, terroir is the totality of a place. As I’ve said in the past, it’s all the things around you that give your life purpose, character, and texture.
So, when I sat down with Chef Rob Almodovar to consider our upcoming food menu, we talked beans. Thinking about fabada, and its natural affinity with our cider, we took a step back to consider our sense of place, and how that informs how we see and experience things here. Our voice— our vision—is filtered through this metaphysical concept of terroir. Everything we do revolves around finding and expressing our voice in the fields, in the glass, and on the fork. So, again, beans. While fabada is a jumping off point, as is feijoada (remember, a sense of place, terroir if you will, includes the people and their experiences, i.e., Chef Rob’s Brazilian roots), we consider these dishes as seen through the lens of the American South, and then refine that until we get to the dish as seen through the lens at 1581 Maidens Road, Maidens, Virginia—our property. The stock we used for our bean dish (pictured above) is made with the feet and parts of the chickens we raised and harvested a few weeks ago. The dish also features tomatoes from our main garden. The beans are black-eyed peas, a nod to Hoppin’ John, and a recognition of the strength of the enslaved human beings who introduced it to the American South. The dish is finished with a corn succotash (yes, grown here) and a sunny side up egg on top, which comes from our orchard hens.
So, yes, beans—as seen through our sense of place. And this dish will pair perfectly with Old Country, a cider we are releasing this weekend (July 31, 2021). Old Country is our version of an old world sidra.
Be well. Eat Well. Drink Well.