Whole foods have become increasingly important to me as I make the move toward self-sustenance and inner peace. I was never much to cook as a kid; my father was more prone to baking chocolate chip cookies, and my mother, badgered by the picky and monochromatic appetites of her husband and children, cooked a small repertoire of foods. When I grew up, I found that I was totally incapable of feeding myself. I spent a lot of money on fast food or easy food (I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and ramen.) What attempts I did make at dinner were often fairly successful; the food, while edible, was bland. I would stare in wonder at the recipes I had tried to follow. I hearkened back on my time as an exchange student in Venezuela and marveled, remembering how my host mother or aunt or grandmother would simply grab handfuls of food and throw them together and suddenly there was a meal. It seemed to me that they were fairies in possession of a magic I would never understand, let alone employ.
I’m good at salads, but give me some meat and veggies, or God forbid rice and beans, and I am useless at creating a meal. My fear of spices persisted until about a year ago, when, as part of our typical conversation, I mentioned to my grandmother that I had purchased a particular type of soup at the store. She exclaimed, with admirable horror, “Oh honey, you mustn’t buy soup!” It got me thinking, and I began to experiment with stews. I found that to make a good stew I basically needed the following ingredients:
- crushed red pepper flakes
- bell pepper
- as many tomatoes as you can possibly fit in the stew (this is my own personal prejudice; to me, tomatoes MAKE stew, and I will cut up six or seven large ones to put in.)
This was heartening. I wasn’t able to cook while traveling, but now that I am stationary again, I am experimenting with beans, with what I feel to be are admirable results.
Rice and beans, with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, possibly a little bit of cheese, and most certainly a half or full avocado, is one of the most satisfying meals on the planet. Thrown in a big bowl and stirred, I will eat this stuff fast and lick the bowl clean. Inspired by Rebecca Orchant’s article “Don’t Be Scared, It’s Just A Bag Of Dried Beans“, I have been cooking them nonstop lately. If you don’t presoak, you can still make a hearty meal of beans in about four hours. Having tried both ways, I don’t find any difference other than the appearance (quick soaked beans seem to split a little more) and that doesn’t bother me at all.
Since I’m still experimenting, I’ll hold off on giving any of my own advice on beans, but wanted to provide a handy list of links (the above article is a great start) for those interested in bringing beans back.
AWESOME BEAN LINKS
- Fresh Beans: Soaking Times and Cooking Tips from CP Organics
- How to Cook Dried Beans: Chez Bettay, The Vegan Gourmet
- I Agree With McGee: Buying and cooking dried beans
- Types of beans and cooking tips: Lynne’s Country Kitchen
- 15 Delicious Recipes With Beans: The Kitchn
- 8 Easy Bean Recipes: Recipe4Living
- 14 Beans: Urban Simplicity
- Finding Self-Reliance in a Pot of Dried Beans: Mother Earth News