What’s on the Menu? Bean Soup!
“Thunderation,” roared Speaker of the House Joe Cannon of Illinois. “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.”
A common item in the U.S. House of Representatives even before the turn of the 20th century, bean soup became a permanent fixture in the institution when Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois discovered that his favorite meal had not been prepared by the kitchen staff on a hot, summer day in 1904. Dismayed by the omission, the Speaker directed that bean soup be served in the House every day, regardless of the weather. More than a century after Speaker Cannon’s decree, bean soup remains on the menu in the House Restaurant, making it one of the more longstanding and famous traditions in the House.
Recipe for Bean Soup Served in the U.S. House of Representatives Restaurant
(from House of Representatives Menu, 1955)
- 2lb. No. 1 white Michigan beans.
- Cover with water and soak overnight.
- Drain and re-cover with water.
- Add a smoked ham hock and simmer slowly for about 4 hours until beans are cooked tender. Then add salt and pepper to suit taste.
- Just before serving, bruise beans with large spoon ladle, enough to cloud. (Serves about six persons)
- Ask students to make a list of traditions in their family, school, or town and lead a discussion about their importance. Then have students think about the meaning of traditions and why an institution like the House of Representatives would have longstanding customs. Divide students in groups and have each create a recipe for their own soup or sandwich. Each group should make a five-minute presentation on why their meal would best represent the students of their school. Afterwards, have students vote on their favorite, and, if time, cook and serve the meal chosen by the class.
- For an extended activity ask students to interview a family member about his/her “famous” recipe. Have students draft a series of questions about their family member’s connection to the recipe and any traditions or special stories connected with the meal.
Memories of Bean Soup
Former House Page Bill Goodwin remembers his arrival at the Capitol, including his first encounter with House Bean Soup.