Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Gardening

Look the Beans

look the beans

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

Look transitive verb To examine (food), inspect for dirt or foreign objects.
1982 Slone How We Talked 62 Some of the greens we used were not cooked, but eaten raw. They were “looked” (checked for bugs and rotting spots), washed, sprinkled with salt and wilted or “killed” by pouring real hot grease over them. 1990 Bailey Draw Up Chair 12 I told her, “Now you be sure to look the beans,” 1933 Ison and Ison Whole Nuther Lg 40 Look the beans = to inspect dried beans or other food for foreign objects.


2017 Brasstown “Why those beans were so pretty you didn’t even hardly need to look them.”


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  • Reply
    August 8, 2021 at 3:04 am

    I’ve never heard anyone else but my family (Appalachian roots) say this! But everyone in my family always looked the pinto beans before making soup beans and cornbread.

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    May 30, 2020 at 11:03 am

    I grew up “looking” dry pintos and great northern beans with mama. She liked that combination of dry beans cooked with a chunk of fat back. Corn bread and pickled beets and onions were a mighty fine table.

  • Reply
    July 20, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    I just watched a video of a young man dumping a bag of pinto beans into a crock pot and nearly jumped out of my seat. “No, no, no, you’ve gotta LOOK THE BEANS!!” I hollered at my screen. It was one of the first cooking lessons my mom gave me. Look look ’em then, you rench them in hot water. Then you put them in the pot with your ham hock or whatever else you’re flavoring them with.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Mom bought pintos in 25 lb bags when I was a kid. I’ve looked many lbs of them and still do occasionally. There’s a place in Colorado that grows pintos that don’t cause flatulence. They claim its due to the high altitude and their special soil.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    We “looked over” our beans – – and tomatoes, and corn, and carrots, and anything else we gleaned from the fields after they were harvested or picked earlier. We often had to cut out bits here and there, but even if they weren’t the prettiest things, they were definitely the tastiest!

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    August 17, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    I would have never thought anyone wouldnt know about LOOKING a vegetable but you hit on another one Tipper. What fun, the way we talk! And you can ‘look’ a washtub of greens (esp spinach) and get very little for the enormous effort and back ache but they sure are good.
    My family loved ‘yellow-eye’ beans best but I always prefered pintos, I just think there’s more flavor. I happened to see a few years ago an episode of Good Eats on whatever the cooking channel is and ‘he’ said its an absolute must to soak dried beans for 12 full hours before cooking so they don’t crack open.
    That would be, of course, after a good LOOK.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 17, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    We always looked the pinto beans when I was growing up. But recently I was talking to someone about 15 years younger than me and he said he had never looked the beans! I was kinda shocked because I still remember the little rocks we would find. Crunching down on one of them sure would ruin a good supper.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    My Mama was a professional bean looker, if we looked the beans over she’d relookem and find the ones me and my brother missed, I always felt that little worm is just full of nothing but beans, she didn’t see it that way.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 17, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    That’s a new one to me. We have always “picked over” the beans. Apparently there is a better way to package dry beans nowadays — I hardly ever find rocks or tiny clods of dirt, but I still pick over them.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    August 17, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    I can remember Mom buying Pinto Beans dry in a sack and have looked many a sack for rocks and trash. I now love Lucks Pintos or their Mixed Beans. Since there is only my wife and I we make many suppers with a pone of cornbread, Pinto Beans, Kilt Lettuce and onions or fried potatoes. This is hard to beat.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 17, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Counting Beans?
    I used to work in a food distribution warehouse with about 800 employees. We were open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year. The exceptions were Christmas day and Saturday night when they shut down to fog the place for pests. People who work have to eat so we had break rooms like everybody else with sandwich, snack and candy machines. But we also had a full blown kitchen and dining room. Not catered, cooked on the premises. They didn’t operate the cafeteria to make a profit, they wanted to keep the employees fed. For $1.00 you got a meat, two veggies, cornbread, loaf bread, toast or biscuits, tea (sweet or unsweetened), lemonade or fruit punch or coffee. This stuff was all cooked onsite. Workers would come from surrounding factories and businesses to eat. Of course it cost them more. $1.50! Dessert was an extra .50.
    Anyway, I worked 3rd shift and would stop by the cafeteria on the way in for coffee. The second shift cooks would be getting ready for tomorrow’s lunch. A couple of nights a week they would be sitting at a table covered with dry beans. They were “looking” them. Not by the palm full like most people but one bean at a time. Each bean would have a finger drag it across the table top and into a bowl in a lap, like coins that can’t be picked up easily are slid over the counter into your hand. The clinkers, rocks and broken, off colored and misshapen beans were slid over to the side. The ladies would sit there for a couple of hours gossiping, chatting with passersby and looking beans. They had to have 20 pounds so sometimes they went into overtime but management didn’t mind. Happy cooks make better food!
    I would come by ask the familiar “Whatcha up to?” In the beginning they would reply with something like “Oh, not much. How ’bout you?” “No! I’m not asking how you are, I just didn’t want you to lose count!” Or, I would ask “How many beans do you have to look?” The reply would be “20 pounds.” I’d say “No, how many beans? I can see you are counting them!” At first they were flabbergasted by my comments but when they got to know me better, they would just make up a number, throw a bean at me and tell me to go on.
    One of the ladies was Marlene but for the life of me I can’t remember the other one’s name but that was almost 40 years ago.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2017 at 10:45 am

    I miss not having a garden again this year, especially the Nantahala White Runners and home-grown tomatoes. B.Ruth, I was introduced these by Jesse and Myrtle Allen, my friends who grew up in Nantahala. Myrtle Younce’s Family had these over 120 years or longer and they have kept their heirloomness over the years.
    I had to look under Recent Posts today to get my Blind Pig. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    August 17, 2017 at 9:00 am

    My son started 7th grade today. For his “last meal” he wanted soup beans. Monday, we looked the beans. It was fun to teach him that. The same day, my wife taught our daughter to put up rhubarb jam. It was quite the Appalachian day.
    I never thought about this stuff as passing on culture. But, the food ways, the time together, and the vocabulary are so important. My parents and grandparents taught me this stuff. The Blind Pig gang made me self aware of the importance of passing it on. I guess being Off has made me forget how unique and important it all is.
    We also painted our porch haint blue this week.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 17, 2017 at 6:27 am

    Growing up we bought dried beans in one pound bags to cook. I was taught to go through them a hand full at a time and “look” them. Looking meant checking for bad beans, rocks, and any other trash. There were rarely bad beans or trash but often little rocks. My mother thought the rocks were added intentionally to increase the weight.
    After looking the dried beans came the washing through several cycles of clear water. This was followed by soaking them for a few hours in water. Then they could be cooked.
    The beans were covered with fresh water and cooked for several hours on low heat with some kind of pork fat for seasoning.
    The pinto beans (my favorite) took the longest to cook, navy beans and yellow eyed beans didn’t take quite as long to cook.
    When the beans were ready we made a cake of cornbread and some chopped or green onions to go with them. Sometimes we even had wilted greens to go with the beans. At my house it was most often pinto beans that we cooked because that was what we all liked best. That makes one fine meal!
    I haven’t cooked any beans in a while. I guess it’s because a pound of beans is a lot of beans for one person to eat. I sure do like a pot of pinto beans, now I guess I’m gonna have to cook some!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 17, 2017 at 6:26 am

    Having a hard time lookin’ beans the last few weeks, since all we have left are our seed beans a’dryin’!
    Not much to look for on the Marconi, Gypsy, Bell, and Jalapeno Peppers…except maybe an over-ripe spot.
    Where did the summer go!
    If stays dry, we need to pick our seed beans today! (Thanks Ken for sharing your heirloom beans). We just love them beans, very they are very tasty. Growing like crazy and makin’ the prettiest beans, until they look as Tipper stated…”You nearly didn’t even hardly need to look them.”
    Thanks Tipper,

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