I used to cook beans for about ten minutes and then put some butter on them. This still works fine for the new-fangled, tender, stringless, round bush beans, but for old-fashioned pole beans, a longer cooking time is sometimes in order. I like Mark Bittman's recipe for slow-cooked beans in How to Cook Everything. You put a pound and a half of trimmed beans, a cup of tomatoes, an onion, 1/4 cup of olive oil, maybe some ham, and a half cup of water in a pot and you just boil it for an hour. These are the beans of your childhood. They will smell and taste like they did in 1959. Ok, maybe we didn't have olive oil in 1959; there would have been bacon grease in there instead. And you can put bacon grease in there now too! But if you don't have a grease can on your stove and don't have any bacon grease on hand, I guess you'll just be forced to use extra-virgin California olive oil, or something. It will still be pretty good.
I grow a kind of pole bean called Louisiana Purple Pod. It makes pods even when the weather is very hot, whereas other kinds of pole beans sometimes fail to make pods in hot weather. The pods are a beautiful purple color when you pick them, but they turn green when they are being cooked.
Here they are in the pot with the tomatoes and a few pods of Zee Best okra:
When they were done, Tom sniffed them for a while and said they smelled like the beans of his childhood. Good: that was the effect I was going for. He was raised by a soul food cook in New Orleans, and if I can make the beans taste like hers, I am happy.