Restaurant In Moorefield, W.Va. Serves Pinto Beans Honduran Style
Even though pinto beans aren’t native to Appalachia, they’ve become a staple in many of the region’s food traditions. One woman in Moorefield, West Virginia didn’t grow up eating pinto beans in her home country of Honduras, but has incorporated them into her cooking since moving to the Mountain State.
Emerita Sorto has been serving up traditional Honduran and Salvadoran food at her restaurant, Pupuseria Emerita, for about six years. The menu includes bean-filled dishes like baleadas and pupusas. Inside Appalachia folkways reporter, Nicole Musgrave, spoke with Sorto and her teenage granddaughter, Vanessa Romero, about the kinds of beans they serve.
Sorto grew up in Honduras and primarily speaks Spanish. Romero was on the call to translate for her grandmother.
Emerita Sorto (as translated by Vanessa Romero): I mostly use pinto beans with most of my plates. I also use red beans.
Sorto moved to the United States when she was 30 and has lived here about 30 years. She said in Honduras, she grew up eating beans with most every meal, primarily red beans and black beans. But pinto beans weren’t as common. However, they’re the main bean she uses at the restaurant.
Nicole Musgrave: Emerita, you said that you grew up eating red beans and black beans a lot. But I’m curious, why do you use pinto beans at the restaurant?
Sorto (as translated by Romero): The majority of my customers are American, so we usually use pinto beans in our plates. A lot of Latinos are used to eating red beans, but I think both enjoy all sorts of beans.
Sorto said she serves pinto beans two ways: as whole beans and as mashed, refried beans. In both varieties, she adds ingredients like garlic, onion, salt, tomatoes, and green bell peppers to give the beans more flavor.
Musgrave: And how did you learn to make the beans like that? Is that a recipe that you learned growing up in Honduras?
Sorto (as translated by Romero): My mother taught me when I was a little girl. And when I came to the United States, I decided to use other beans with the same recipe.
And now, Sorto teaches others to cook. She has taught family members as well as people at the church she attends. Even her granddaughter, Vanessa Romero, is learning to cook. Romero said she knows how to make fried plantains, but there are some recipes she hasn’t learned yet.
Musgrave: And I forgot to ask you, how do you refer to your grandmother?
Romero: I call my grandmother “abuela.”
Musgrave: And have you learned your abuela’s bean recipe?
Romero: No, but my mother has.
Musgrave: Okay, so maybe one day?
Romero: Yeah, maybe one day.
Even though she doesn’t cook them yet, Romero says she does enjoy eating the beans her abuela makes. Her favorite way to eat them is on a baleada, a traditional Honduran dish where refried beans are spread onto a large flour tortilla, and usually topped with crema and crumbled cheese.
Romero: I think my grandmother’s food is very authentic.
Romero lives an hour east of Moorefield in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. But she enjoys spending time with Sorto in her restaurant. Romero said she is glad to share Honduran food with Moorefield’s long-time residents, and with the many immigrant families who have migrated to the town to work at the local poultry factory.
Musgrave: And what is it like for you to share this aspect of your culture with people in Moorefield?
Romero: Well, I grew up here in America, but I grew up with Honduran culture. And I think not a lot of people talk about Hondurans and their culture and their food. So I like seeing people come in here and eat the food that we grew up eating…And I hope everyone will come by and enjoy some Honduran food.
This interview is part of the Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Project, a partnership with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia and the Folklife Program of the West Virginia Humanities Council. The Folkways Reporting Project is made possible in part with support from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies to the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Foundation. Subscribe to the podcast to hear more stories of Appalachian folklife, arts, and culture.