Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Beans

Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So eat your beans at every meal!

Beans, beans, they're good for your heart
The more you eat, the more you fart
The more you fart, the better you feel
Beans, beans, oh what a thrill!

~~~~Popular Songs of Unknown Origin

Some of the ever so many variations on this fine song. I'm not sure which, precisely, was sung in Blazing Saddles. I asked Walter if he ever saw that movie. He's pretty sure he did, long ago when he first came to America, but his English wasn't nearly as good then as it is now. A couple days after that, I learned the movie has just been listed in the National Film Preservation Board, USA 2006 National Film Registry. I'm not much of a movie buff but I hear this is a high honor.

With Walter home for so long recovering from his surgery, maybe he'll set me up with audio or podcasts or some such before he goes back to work. I hope so. Then, if someone asks very nicely and maybe donates a huge tip for it, I might even sing that bean song for y'all. This can only work if you happen to enjoy hearing people with crunchy bad voices sing. You know. People who are ineligible for singing Real Music. Because they can't actually Sing.

Walter grew up in a Commie country that no longer exists. He made his escape in 1985 and came to America by accident, as a political refugee. He only applied for America because it's so hard to get here, he figured he'd be tied up in bureaucratic red tape for years and years. He really wanted to stay right where he was, with a cousin's family in Vienna, Austria, but international law says you can't permanently stay in the country where you land as a refugee.

At any other time, it would have been a very good tactic. Woulda worked.

Little did he know that Ronald Reagan had just decided to temporarily open our doors to some *regular folks* from Communist regimes, to counter accusations that the only ones we'd accept were renowned scientists or famous anti-Communist authors or world-class ballet dancers. Instead of being happily ensconced for five years with relatives, only 40 miles from his home town of Bratislava, he ended up in America in record time - about five months. Of the six languages he admitted to speaking at the time - actually, it's around a dozen or more - English was not one of them.

Not that you'd call Walter *regular folk.* One thing they did for him in the old country was to educate the bejesus out of the man. At the age of 9 he was scooped up and sent to a Special School for gifted children. They were taught by high ranking university professors and whatnot. At the end, when most of the kids were 18, they were awarded baccalaureate degrees. But Walter's a *fall baby,* born on 9/11. So at 17 years old, he graduated from college with a double major in Linguistics and History, and minors in World Literature and Geography.

Later he got a law degree, a JD, in night school. But what good is a law degree that was based upon a constitution that no longer exists? A fine joke there! The only benefit of his law doctorate, here and now, is this: when he gets too snotty with me I can call him Dr. Walter.

Since childhood, he was a bit persnickety about his manners, too. At the age of one and a half he insisted on having a knife, fork and spoon at every meal. He doesn't like to touch his food to eat it. Doesn't like to get messy, him.

You can imagine the impact of falling in love with a woman who enthusiastically made mud pies at the age of one and a half, and is still quite contented getting extremely dirty working in the yard and home improving, and only insists on using eating utensils when her food isn't too hot to eat, but IS too hot to touch with her fingers. Or when she must behave herself in public.

Walter never did learn to play in the dirt. Luckily, despite all those serious scholarly endeavors and high falutin' table manners, he retained a fine sense of humor, including some taste for parody. And despite the table manners, gas doesn't scare him one bit. Nope. It's fair game for humor.

Which, considering his newfound need for Heart Food, is probably a very good thing indeed. Because beans are way high on the Good Heart Food list.

But along with such wonderful attributes as being dirt-cheap, with low calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, very high fiber, moderate carbs, surprisingly high protein, lots of potassium and iron and some calcium too, one does get that famous side effect.

The k Bean Cooking Experiment started off, naturally enough, with chili.

I retrieved a 4 liter canister of pinto beans that's been hanging about in my canister cabinet for a couple years, the tail end of a 50 pound bag of pinto beans I bought at Sam's. Luckily for us, being both pinto beans and in a tightly sealed container means they were still perfectly fine. The worst that can happen to longer-stored beans is, they may need several more hours of cooking to soften up.

I like the *boil a couple minutes, then let sit* method. Throw away the soak water, rinse the beans, fill 'er up again, and simmer. That many beans requires the Big Giant Stock Pot.

After simmering them several hours at a time over a few days - between serious bouts of fever napping - it was time to add in a pot of darkly browned beef. This was formerly a very lean roast, which I disrespected by cubing it up for chili. Don't cry, people. It's just meat. It was only a few cents per pound more than chuck over at Sam's, and while I'm very good at de-fatting meats, my cardiac patient needs an extremely low-fat diet. No way was I going to even try to use chuck.

Toss in copious amounts of onion and chili powder and nice cholesterol-reducing garlics and some tomatoes, and a very small amount of salt, and voila. Some fine chili con carne.

Yay! Beans #1 is done.

That was the only beans dish I KNOW he loves. The rest of the Experiment will be...playing it by ear.

See, Walter has all sorts of notions on the Proper Way to cook stuff - meaning how he grew up eating it in Europe - and he came from a seriously foodie family, and knows an amazing amount about cooking, but hates to do it. And he can't always explain what it is he's accustomed to eating.

Of course, if my preps differ from his unexpressed expectations, I get to hear: --You guys don't know how to cook beans right!!!, which often results in an extended bout of high-minded, arm-waving, soapbox standing Patriotic and Marital insults. Define Right and Wrong vs. Personal Tastes!!!, and where which food originally came from, all that.

So my next endeavor was a sort of Baked Beans. Navy beans, barbecue sauce, molasses, brown sugar, mustard powder, and fresh ginger put through a garlic press. The broth was made from a whole smoked turkey, with the white meat added back in.

It was really great.

Unfortunately, after all that, I found out Walter regards anything remotely like Pork and Beans as *Desperation Food for Starving Truckers Who Can't Get At REAL Food Today Cause the Truck's Too Big To Get In Their Parking Lot.* Which situation is an unhappy one, and one that occurs too often for comfort. HA! Now don't you think I should have known that by now?

Okay. That one's MY beans.

And now I also requested serious INPUT. --Walter! This is for YOU! I love to cook and I want to make what YOU are happy eating but since I don't have ESP you must TELL me things!

He said he's not sure how to describe what he likes in either beans or their preparation, but he'll try.

So. I invested some $6 in the following selection of raw beans, in 14 or 16 oz (1 pound) bags:

Great Northern Beans
Navy Beans
Blackeye Peas
Small Red Beans (these are the New Orleans Red Beans and Rice type)

and three kinds I've never heard of:

Pink Beans - same size as the Small Red Beans
Central American Red Beans - these are little bitty ones, quite cute. And pricey! $1.22!!!
Mayocoba Beans - Look similar to Great Northern Beans, but tan colored

I laid the bags out on a chair and asked Walter to look at them and pick which kind he'd like us to try next.

He went for the Great Northerns.

Now keeping in mind that I'm beset with fever, and inclined to screw things up as a result of being braindead, I promptly washed and sorted the Navy Beans instead.

Realizing my error just after I started the soaking process, I figured I could do a Comparative Bean Analysis by preparing both at once.

Plus, then I could pretend I did it on purpose.

Further Walter Input was this: More water and vegetables, like a soup instead of just beans. Think minestrone.

Okay.

Beans, water, celery, onions, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes. Close to the end, add pressed garlic, parsley, ground bay leaf. For the stock and meat, more of the smoked turkey business.

This time I used a pack of smoked turkey wings for the great northern beans, and some smoked turkey lunchmeat for the navies. The lunchmeat was an error due to brain malfunction - no matter how lean, it has too much sodium for him. Okay. Put it in soup to dilute the salt. Better than tossing it out, right? heh!

The great northern beans were a smash hit. The navies less so: they needed something. More salt. Longer cooking - not soft enough, even though I cooked both kinds side by side. This morning I decided to toss in some leftover pork roast, which has rosemary and garlic seasoning. I may add some oregano too, since he WAS talking minestrone.

Ahhh. Tired but happy.

And to top it off - I didn't forget the Beano.

6 comments:

Desert Cat said...

The good news is that after a few weeks it is probable that your systems will adjust and the side-effects will be largely mitigated. At least mine did. But that was years ago since I ate beans regularly.

Have you considered using savory as a spice? That goes particularly well with pinto beans, but would probably work well with northern white beans and others. Savory and maybe a little rosemary and salt and pepper--great combo.

Then there's lentils. OH! Lentils! I love me some good lentil soup.

Cindi said...

I was amazed to find out that there are desserts made with beans too!
http://tinyurl.com/y5kl8t

I like White Chili too made with chicken. Yum!

k said...

I do adjust pretty quickly to the beans. At least I think I do. Walter may disagree.

Savory! Excellent suggestion. It's hard to find in the stores here though. If I can't get some fresh or dried or a plant I'll order some seed. I use rosemary a lot in cooking so I try to vary that in beans dishes. I tend to use tumeric too, which can be bitter and way yellow if you overdo it, but has a wonderful savory flavor in the right proportion.

Lentil soup is such a staple in our house, I forgot to even mention it! When I'm down to my last couple of frozen servings I start to get a little antsy and look for some more somoked turkey. I just LOVE lentil soup and so does Walter. I can make a great vegetarian version too.

White Chili!!! THANK YOU CINDI!!! It's a little hard to find alternate meats for this guy! Now I have a way to do CHICKEN in beans. WAY cool!

And I have GOT to check out that dessert beans link. Meat and desserts are the two items that are breaking his heart the worst right now.

Kirsten N. Namskau said...

Beans are nuorishment and good. A very good substitute for meat if you are vegetarian.
Here in Egypt, beans are everydays food. To avoid the problem with gas, do not let them stay in water over night. Put them right into a pot and let them boil at the LOWEST heat for ca.8 hours. Add salt AT THE END of the coking-time.
I use to let the beans either cook during night or I put them on the stove in the morning and they are finish at afternoon.

prettylady said...

Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lemon
olive oil
3-4 Tbsp tahini
dash of cumin
dash of salt

Put all ingredients in food processor and blend till smooth. Add more or less olive oil, lemon and garlic to adjust flavor and texture. Let sit, covered, in refrigerator for best flavor (garlic diffuses slowly through the beans.)

This works excellently well as a dip for steamed vegetables, on sandwiches or as a side dish with salads. My ex-boyfriend rehabilitated himself after his heart attack with huge doses of it.

Plus, he ate oatmeal every day.

And I can't believe my brother hasn't sent that stuff yet. I will get on the phone to him.

k said...

Kirsten, I love beans, and when I was a vegetarian I ate a lot of them. They are SO good for you and high in protein, especially with certain other plants like corn or rice.

When I went to college at age 25 I was eating meat again, but I was so poor, beans and rice were about all I could afford. With some seasoning and chicken wings - back then it was just before *buffalo wings* got popular and chicken wings were very cheap meat - I actually ate pretty well on almost no money.

The funny thing is, what you say about the *no-soak* method to avoid gas? It's the exact opposite of what people say here! Boil a minute, soak, and change the water is all to avoid gas.

Also, they say if you can pop the beans from their skins, that's where the gas problems come from. Some people here do a short boil then dump them in cold water to pop the skins off. The skins float to the top of the water and they skim them off with a strainer or a slotted spoon.

Too much work for me! My body adjusts after a little while so I don't worry about it any more. Besides, the only person I spend any time around is Walter and he's usually not here either. When he is, we BOTH eat the beans. That's like when you both eat garlic. Which one can complain? ;-)

Pretty Lady, that sounds very good. I'll probably substitute by cooking dried chickpeas, since Walter's gotten leery of anything in a can due to the high sodium content. But this sounds like an excellent dish for him, one he'd like and can eat easily. Good.

I've been nudging him at the oatmeal too, but the thing is, it's one of many foods he loved to put a lot of heavy cream in. For a sausage and eggs and heavy cream eating guy, that's the difficult part of his dietary rehab. However, he heard again about oatmeal's cholesterol lowering benefits, and since his episode with the Vytorin, his ears perked up. I believe he's been theorizing on alternative ways to eat oatmeal.

The day before his heart attack, I'd cooked a batch of these oatmeal raisin bar cookies he loves. They were the lower sugar/lower butter version, but still, even those are off limits now. Too rich. I just ran across them in the freezer tonight.

Your brother cracks me up. Of course, he doesn't remind me of ME whatsoever. No.

Not to mention, I read on your blog that you TOO have the Brilliant Scientist Father? Sheesh! Did you have an interesting lab to visit with him as a child? What's his field? Tell, tell!

Since I just went out gardening again a few days ago, I had no skin lesions to practice on anyway. I did, finally, get one. One. Oh, boy, am I being careful.

And Desert Cat has a new colloidal silver dietary supplement he sent me. It was packaged with beautiful engineerly precision. I must and will have a photo of it.

So I'm just getting started now on these new experiments. And, this time, keeping Dr. Dad in the loop, all the way. We had some interesting talks about silver preps when he was here over Christmas. He's quite curious about the nanosilver.