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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.

SOUPTALE: In March 1998, Representative John Spratt, Jr. (D-SC), walked down the marbled steps near the Senate restaurant, slipped on spilled bean soup, and ended up with two small fractures in his right arm. O Tempora! O Mores!

Garnish: minced parsley or chives

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.
SOUPTALE: A last word from the late Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL), written 3 years before his death in 1966. AN HOMAGE TO BEANS:

"It was many years ago that a very dignified and slightly belligerent senator took himself to the Senate Dining Room to order bean soup, only to discover that there was no bean soup on the menu. This dereliction on the part of the Senate Dining Room cooks called for an immediate declaration of war. So the senator promptly introduced a resolution to the effect that henceforth not a deay should pass, when the Senate was in session and the restaurant open, that there would not be bean soup on the menu. It has, therefore, become an inviolate practice and a glorious tradition that the humble little bean should always be honored.

"There is much to be said for the succulent little bean--any kind of bean, be it kidney, navy, green, wax, Kentucky, chili, baked, pinto, Mexican, or any other kind. Not only is it high in nourishment, but is particularly rich in that nutritious value referred to as protein--the stuff that imparts energy and drive to the bean eater and particularly the senators who need this sustaining force when they prepare for a long speech on the Senate floor.

"I venture the belief that the marathon speakers of the Senate going back as far as the day of the celebrated "Kingfish," Senator Huey Pierce Long of Louisiana, and coming down to the modern marathoners in the forensic art such as Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, both of whom have spoken well in excess of twenty hours and felt no ill effects, would agree the little bean had much to do with this sustained torrent of oratory....