Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams post features two article excerpts and comments about the Nation Of Islam tradition of baking and selling "bean pies".
This post also showcases two videos about Nation Of Islam's bean pies. A 1970s sound file by Kool & The Gang of their song " is also showcased in this post.
The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, etymological purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the producers of the YouTube videos that are included in this post.
INFORMATION ABOUT NATION OF ISLAM'S BEAN PIES
Bean pie, my brother?
The Nation of Islam's iconic dessert is still around, if you know where to look.
By Mike Sula, Novemeber 18, 2013
..."Made from cooked, mashed, small navy beans, the bean pie is the iconic food of black Muslims everywhere, but locating one in Chicago in recent years has been a hit-or-miss proposition. That's surprising given the zeal Elijah Muhammad, the Nation's leader for 41 years, had for navy beans. "Eat food that Allah (God) has prescribed for us," he wrote in How to Eat to Live, a two-volume dietary guide for followers of the Nation, whose main points are repeated with the circularity of an industrial-sized mixer: "Even take little things such as beans. Allah (God) says that the little navy bean will make you live, just eat them. He said to me that even milk and bread would make us live. Just eat bread and milk—it is the best food. He said that a diet of navy beans would give us a life span of one hundred and forty years. Yet we cannot live ½ that length of time eating everything that the Christian table has set for us.
In some ways Muhammad's Nation of Islam diet was ahead of its time. He advocated eating unprocessed foods and mostly vegetables (definitely not pork) in moderation. On the other hand, it's an extreme form of moderation. He advised eating just one meal per day, or every other day if you were strong, or—for those who could work up to it—once every 72 hours...
Though in How to Eat to Live he never precisely says why, Muhammad lists most legumes—lima beans, field peas, black-eyed peas, speckled peas, red peas, and brown peas—as among the divinely prohibited. The navy bean was the sole exception....
These rules, he wrote, came directly from the mouth of Wallace Fard Muhammad, who the protege asserted came to Detroit from Mecca to found the Nation of Islam (and then mysteriously disappeared en route to Chicago in 1934). And with him came the recipe for bean pie, according to Lance Shabazz, an archivist and historian of the Nation who says that the theory of the bean pie emerging as a substitute for sweet potato pie might have some validity. Elijah Muhammad doesn't mention bean pie, but he's pretty clear about sweet potatoes: "Sweet potatoes were never good for any human to eat. They are good for hogs, but not for you." (That might have been a tough sell for African-Americans new to the Nation. Sweet potato pie, which originated in the south, was likely the mingling of the cooking of African slaves, who knew yams, and their European masters, who knew pie crust. It is enshrined in the soul food canon.)
In any case, Lance Shabazz says Fard Muhammad bestowed the first recipe for bean pie upon Elijah Muhammad and his wife, Clara, in the 30s in Detroit, though none of this is precisely stated in How to Eat to Live either.
But bean pie is in fact a convincing substitute for sweet potato pie...If nobody tipped you off to the fact that you were eating pie made from mashed navy beans, you could be forgiven for thinking it was sweet potato or pumpkin pie.
Bean pie wasn't the only Nation of Islam dish made with the miraculous navy bean—there was bean soup and bean bread—but it was certainly the most iconic, not just in Chicago but in any other city with a Nation of Islam presence.
In Chicago it used to be that you could reliably pick up a bean pie on the street—along with the latest issue of the Final Call—from a fastidiously dressed male member of the Nation of Islam, who might proffer, "Bean pie, my brother?"...
The late Lana Shabazz, operator of a renowned bakery in New York City, was probably the Nation's most famous bean pie maker. She cooked for Elijah Muhammad and Muhammad Ali—and in 1979 she authored the cookbook Cooking for the Champ. In Chicago there were at least three Nation of Islam bakeries on the south side at one time, most notably the Shabazz Bakery on 71st near Saint Lawrence...
The bakeries where she worked are gone now, but independent bean pie makers still come and go. "Things change really fast in the bean pie world, it seems," says Peter Engler, who has made a study of bean pies over the years. When he first came across one in the early 70s it was at the Hyde Park Co-op. "I saw these stacks of pies. I'm pretty sure these were the Shabazz pies. I bought one and I think I was surprised that it was sweet. It was just like a pumpkin pie. I'd buy one every now and then." Later, in the 90s, Engler bought pies from the now defunct Original Bean Pie Bakery for his coworkers in the molecular immunology lab at the University of Chicago.
In 2008, as Engler was preparing to give a talk about the bean pie at a Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance symposium, he realized how hard it had become to find one. A number of independent bakeries had gone out of business, and Muhammad University's Supreme Bean Pie had just gone back into production after a mysterious absence. With some difficulty he managed to get a half-dozen pies delivered to the conference through a semiofficial bean pie courier.
It still isn't easy to find them....
So where does one get a bean pie these days? Of course, you can always make your own; recipes and YouTube tutorials abound on the Internet."...
The video given as Example #1 below includes an interview from a son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad which provides more information about how Lana Shabazz originated the Nation of Islam's bean pie.
From https://marielacampbellphotography.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/sweet-bean-pie-from-the-nation-of-islam/ "SWEET BEAN PIE !! FROM THE NATION OF ISLAM Posted by Mariela Campbell Photography on August 8, 2012
...."The Bean Pie was ….Born in the Nation of Islam.. a religious black nationalist and social reform movement formed in the 1930’s, and led by Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad wrote a book called “How to Eat to Live” , where he detailed healthy eating guidelines, to improve and prolong life. The Bean Pie is made of Navy Beans, with basic core ingredients, such as sugar, butter, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bakers will add their own touch of flavors such as cloves, ginger and more.
The thought of Bean and Pie put together is hard to digest in ones train of thought, let alone to taste 🙂 Well I am a brave one! I took my first bite nine years ago , with the thought in mind on how quickly I will be spitting this out ….. & of course to my surprise I was overwhelmed by the sweet smooth taste. I learnt that it can be eaten warm, cold or hot… I prefer nice and chilled 🙂
Now the downside to the bean Pie is that it is NOT mass produced, and you really need to find a reliable producer/baker.Because its not cool when we are needing that bean Pie Fix and not being able to find it anywhere …. our supplier is a good 35 mins away, so we make that trip worthwhile, to find that sometimes they are closed grrrrr frustrating it is!!..lol …the other option is to look out for community followers who sell bean pies for fundraising….they are normally dressed in suits 🙂 . I have made my own and definitely need practice 🙂."
All of these ellipses (...) except for the first one and the last one were given in that article.
That article continues with that writer's recipe for bean pies. I haven't tried that recipe (or any other recipe for bean pies), but a number of commenters to this article tried that recipe and wrote that their pies were quite good.
I have tasted bean pies (in Newark, New Jersey and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And agree with the author and the commenters that bean pies are Delicious. They have a taste all their own, but remind me of sweet potato pies (and sweet potato pies taste are almost like pumpkin pies). Perhaps because I'm African American, I'm much more familiar with sweet potato pies than pumpkin pies. I didn't taste pumpkin pies until I attended a predominately White college in East Orange, New Jersey (near Newark). Of these types of pies, my preference is sweet potato pies, closely followed by bean pies, with pumpkin pies coming a far distance third.
Here are two comments from this featured article:
October 19, 2014 at 10:03 am
"This is not the “Original Bean Pie Recipe “ of the Nation of Islam. The sugar and flour are wrong, plus there are four “key” flavors that goes into the pie."...
This comment includes an email to use if readers want the "original" Nation Of Islam recipe.
August 15, 2015 at 4:32 pm
"I use this recipe, but I mix my ingredients in a food processor. I feel that this method better blends the ingredients and gives the filling a really smooth consistency. So far, every pie has been a winner. Also, make sure to use evaporated milk. Half of the water is removed from evaporated milk, which may contribute to the pie’s creamy/custard quality."
Example #1: "Bean Pie My Brotha?"
Hassanah Thomas, Uploaded on Oct 27, 2009
Bean Pie is an authentic American Muslim experience! Hailing from the Blackamerican Muslim community, Bean Pie has taken on iconic proportions. It has been the butt of many jokes, and dare we say, may even have been a catalyst for the proliferation of the Islamic faith, as we have come to learn while filming this documentary that many connoisseurs of this delectable confection have been introduced to Islam and have developed deep affections toward the Muslim community.
So please, watch and learn and see if you don't get a hankering for some Bean Pie!
"Bean pie my brother" (or "my sister") is the usual way that on the street Nation Of Islam vendors try to interest people walking or in cars to buy a bean pie. These same suit wearing, bow tied men would also be hawking the Nation Of Islam's newspaper "The Final Call".
The street vendor call beginning at .05 of this video:
"Bean pies. Costumed beans... The best in the city. Make you say "Ooh wah diddie. Come on get it. Let's be wit it."
At 3:16 in this video that vendor is identified as Bro. Michael Williams from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania> That sub-topic for that segment is whether the beans in bean pies cause those eating them to fart. Bro Williams enjoys his play on words when he says that some people eat bean pie all of the time and they have a "funky good time".
Interview from 1:17 to 2:06 with Mr. Jabir Muhammad [on screen caption: "Son of Elijah Muhammad, Made the bean pie a household name."]
This segment begins with Mr. Muhammad correcting the information that a man shared on camera that bean pies came from the Middle East.
Jabir Muhammad: "No that's not true. This pie was originated up in New York City by a sister named Lana Shabazz as far as I know that's the history goes back. She was also the cook for Muhammad Ali, the fighter and the trainer. She was his main cook. Next I heard it got to my sister Ethel Sharif Muhammad.
I started making the bean pie and was putting it on the shelves of different grocery stores that would accept it. But first I had to introduce the bean pie to the public where they would accept the taste. So I didn't tell them it was bean pie. I named it after the bakery in which I was managing. It was "South Park Bakery" so I called it "South Park Special".
Example #2: The Bean Pie: An American Muslim Icon
3TU, Uploaded on Dec 10, 2011
ADDENDUM: BOW TIES BEAN PIES WHITING H&G
Ronald Bell, Published on Mar 16, 2015
KOOL BABY BROTHA BAND
"Whiting H&G" refers to a type of fish. I'm not sure what the H&G stand for.
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