Ancient Fare: Pinto Bean Cakes with Cracked Wheat in Sour Cream

Life magazine’s 1958 Picture Cook Book presents the reader with a vast array of nourishing traditional dishes. One chapter, entitled “Ancient Fare,” contains dozens of simple, yet delicious, recipes for legumes and grains. “All of these foods are best in simple recipes,” states the introduction to the chapter. “Their flavor is brought out by straightforward butter and herb sauces,” it continues, “but it can be enhanced by the addition of mushrooms, sour cream, almonds or pungent sweet and sour sauce. Cracked wheat, buckwheat groats and pearl barley are coarser than the usual breakfast cereals and consequently have more flavor and texture. The nutty taste of wheat and buckwheat makes them excellent side dishes with hearty beef roasts, and delicately flavored barley does particularly well with ham. These foods are often as good cold as they are hot.”

Below is a recipe from the Picture Cook Book for pinto bean cakes with cracked wheat in sour cream. Both dishes are economical and filling.

Pinto Bean Cakes

2 cups dried pinto beans
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or 1 chili pepper, minced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt

Soak beans overnight in water to cover. Simmer them in the soaking water with salt for 2 hours. Drain beans and chop them coarsely or put them through a food grinder using a coarse blade. Add red pepper and garlic. Shape into 12 cakes and saute in butter for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Lima, navy or Great Northern beans may be substituted for pinto beans.

Cracked Wheat with Sour Cream

2 cups cracked wheat
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cups chicken bouillon [can substitute vegetable bouillon]

Saute mushrooms and onion in butter for five minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add cracked wheat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add bouillon, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serves 6.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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