We go to the farmer’s market when it’s 20 degrees out for smoked bratwurst. Well, we didn’t know we were going for smoked bratwurst. We thought we were just going for eggs. But here we are, encased in our official giant orange bubble University of Tennessee football jackets that Bunny got us special for Christmas one year, standing in front of West Wind Farms when the smoked bratwurst just called out Mark’s name. It was, he said, an inspiration for Metts and Beans.
Metts and Beans. You are now wondering what that is. It’s a dish specific to Knoxville, Tennessee, as far as I can tell. Nashville has its hot chicken (it will literally set you on fire – politicians, in particular, have been seen running from Prince’s Hot Chicken after spontaneously bursting into flames). Charlotte has its liver mush, an acquired taste to be sure and best served fried crispy with an overwhelming amount of Duke’s mayonnaise. And Knoxville has it’s Metts and Beans.
I don’t know what a Mett is. Kind of like Bratwurst, but not. The smoked bratwurst from West Wind Farms was enough to throw Mark into paroxysms of joy. He immediately snapped them up and then insisted we head to the Publix for white beans and white onions. I am somewhat tickled by the fact that a quintessentially Southern dish is made with Great Northern Beans. And the chopped onions on top of the beans must be white, not yellow.
This was about the simplest meal to prepare that I’ve ever attempted. You fry the bratwurst in a little oil. You open the can of beans and heat them up. You chop the onion. That’s pretty much it. Oh, you add some hot sauce to the beans once they’re on the plate. I made some yeast rolls because there really wasn’t enough starch on the plate.
But this simple meal was an intense food memory for Mark. Suddenly, he was not in our kitchen anymore. He had gone back in time almost forty years. He was at Brownie’s, a hole-in-the-wall combination bar and restaurant in Knoxville. He was with his daddy, Paul. And they were savoring Metts and Beans while discussing the important topics of the day such as Tricky Dick going to China or those silly men who broke into Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate. Goodness knows, that wouldn’t amount to much.
I have to tell you when I told Mark I was writing about Metts and Beans, he got so excited he jumped on the internet and found out that Brownie’s was bought by some folks who turned it into the Old College Inn with the express desire of the former owner to keep Metts and Beans on the menu. If you scroll down to second page, you’ll find them. Served since 1939.
What are your food memories? I’d really like to know. And, yes, we’ll be having Metts and Beans again.