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From Frommer's travel advice: "The Senate Bean Soup may be famous, but it's tasteless goo. Use that $1.85 for veggie chili instead."
U.S. Capitol Bean Soup
This is clearly a case of hot air begetting hot air. Some give Senator Fred Thomas Dubois of Idaho the credit (who, natch, insisted on mashed potatoes in it); others Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota. But the popular fave is Joseph G. Cannon, U.S. Speaker of the House, 1903-1911, who one day entered the dining room, looked at the menu, and exclaimed "Thunderation, I had my mouth set for bean soup! From now on, hot or cold, rain, snow or shine, I want it on the menu every day." And so it came to be, every single solitary dining day, in all 11 Capitol dining rooms. Senator and wannabe president Bob Dole doted on it; former Representative and former President Gerald Ford swore by it; and Representative Sonny Bono had a lot of good things to say about it until his unfortunate skiing accident. It's a thick, subtantial, filling thing, that reputedly increases the already considerable gassiness of our nation's legislators. (Thanks to Nina Mrose for some of these facts from the Senate website.) Serve hot to 6-8 people as a light meal or substantial first course.
Strain the water from the soaked beans and put in a big pot with 3 quarts of water and the ham bone or ham hocks. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.
Stir the chopped vegetables and herbs into the pot--and also the mashed potatoes if you're cooking the Senate version--and cook over low heat for another hour--until the beans are nicely tender.
Remove the bones from the pot--cut off the meat into small bits and return the meat to the pot, discarding the bones.
When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with pinches of herbs. For "U.S. House of Representative Bean Soup" authenticity, crush a few of the beans in each bowl to thicken the broth and make it slightly opaque.
Please note: this recipe derives from a Senate cookbook circa 1960s...and in my humble opinion is better than the plain Jane prescription listed on the Senate website. Different refs for different chefs.