Reds Beans and Ricely Yours

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I had red beans and rice with an excellent smoked sausage at Kojak's deli last Monday. Red beans and rice on Mondays is an old New Orleans tradition. It comes from a time when ham was commonly served for Sunday dinner and Monday was laundry day. The beans would simmer on the stove with the hambone while the water was heated for washing.

The dish was made with red kidney beans, the ham bone or some other pork, and vegetables like onion, celery and bell pepper. Red beans and rice became so emblematic of New Orleans, Louis Armstrong used to sign his letters, "Red beans and ricely yours."

While Monday is not really laundry day anymore, the "red beans and rice on Monday" custom has been carried on in New Orleans, both in private homes and restaurants. In restaurants, the beans and rice topped with sausage is usually a Monday lunch special -- as it was last week at Kojak's.

If you want to make red beans and rice at home, Camellia-brand red beans are the preferred variety. And for the rice, you want some kind of "popcorn rice." (It smells like popcorn while it's cooking.) There are dozens of recipes.

My friend Pableaux Johnson drove around the country making red beans and rice wherever he went for a while. He called his one-man tour the "Red Beans and Rice Roadshow." Here's his quick recipe using canned beans.

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