Bean soup has been served in the Senate dining room since time immemorial. However, its origins are as murky as what’s in the bowl. Apparently, around 1904, a bean soup showed up, and it’s been on the Senate menu ever since that time.
According to legend, in 1903, Idaho Democratic Senator Frank Dubois demanded that bean soup be available every day at the Senate dining room, where it’s stayed on the menu for more than a hundred years, but no one has ever located any evidence of that resolution. Another story pins it to Republican Senator Newt Nelson of Minnesota, a bean soup lover from his Civil War days, who supposedly made a similar request a year later. But there is also the story of House Speaker Joe Cannon, who reportedly forced bean soup onto the permanent House Dining Room menu in 1904 after discovering there was none to be had.
The soup’s ingredients include creamy navy beans, pig knuckle meat, butter, and chopped onion. Sometimes also mashed potatoes make an appearance. The soup is homey and filling and, despite visitors typically order it instead of senators, it has endured thanks to the Senate’s predilection for tradition.
In its glorious history, It has only been off the menu for one day. Due to World War II rationing, the Senate kitchen didn’t have enough beans to make the soup. It was September 14, 1943. However, already the following day, the soup returned.
Since it can only be ordered on site, Senate bean soup enjoyed a relative obscurity until it made headlines in 1949. That year, Marion Carpenter, the first female White House photographer, dumped a bowl on the head of a columnist who’d written that she used feminine wiles to get photos of well-known politicians.
Even if you don’t have a personal invitation from your senator to enter the semi-private dining room, the Senate has cafes that serve the soup and, interestingly, also the House of Representatives has offered a near-identical version, too, ever since a famous Speaker of the House demanded it be on the menu in 1904.
Images from web – Google Research