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the dish

With two days of leisure behind us and a long workweek stretching ahead, New Orleans celebrates Monday with a bowl of red beans.

This simple riff on the universal “beans and rice” tradition includes aromatics known as the “Holy Trinity” (onion, bell pepper and celery) and is most often flavored with a bit of the pig (a ham hock, andouille sausage, smoky tasso or pickled pork). Nearly every restaurant in town does some variation on the dish, from creamy, long-stewed beans ladled from a steam tables of downtown lunch joints to the pureed “red bean soup du jour” at the fancier restaurants.

The “beginning of the week”  custom started in the days before indoor plumbing when laundry was a scrub-with-your-hands all day affair. Monday was the traditional laundry day, and cooks needed a dish that could sit on a low fire as they tended to their laundering tasks. The dish also made the most of the hambone that was often left over from Sunday dinner.

Some restaurants put red beans on the menu all week — even in the modern kitchen it’s still a low-maintenance dish —  but diehard traditionalists usually wait until Moday to get their proper weekly fix.