Once I started looking at heirloom beans, I couldn’t stop. Thankfully, unlike jewels, this is a fairly modest addiction. And the interesting thing is that now that I have acquired all of these beautiful beans, I don’t even want to eat them. I want to use them to create art like the mosaic in Tepozlan made solely of beans and grains.
In January, Pitts and I decided to add beans to our dinners almost every night. I ran through the usual dishes quite quickly. But several years ago I had found a beautiful bag of beans that looked like the hide of a horse, with white background and black and brown markings. I wanted to find them again and so I started looking for “heirloom beans” all over the country.
…Continue reading Heirloom Beans
There is a long tradition of cowboy beans in Texas. Pinto beans hold a special place in Texas history and culture. The word “pinto” translates in Spanish to painted and describes the lovely mottled skin of the bean. Look closely at them the next time you see them. They really are quite lovely.
Dried beans originated, as I understand it, in South America and Africa and slowly moved northward. The Spanish and Mexicans were introduced to them from the indigenous South Americans, Mexicans and Native Americans. Their hardiness, shelf stability, portability as a dried commodity, low cost, and nutritional profile made them critical and indispensable in the region.
And anyone who has been here long enough has either grown up on them or grown to love them. They cannot be overlooked as one of the oldest known foods to be consumed in the region and still, they are one of the least expensive things you can put on the table. Some that grow up with the staples of frugality run from them in later life. Some derive immense comfort from them for a lifetime. Some of us learn about our parents’ world through these foods for the first time as adults and they become a window to another time. I can’t state it any more eloquently than Patricia Sharpe did in this recent Texas Monthly piece. This is a great bit of writing that expresses how a meal this simple really can be a touchstone.
…Continue reading Cowboy Beans
Cooking is part of being a parent. Oddly, teaching kids how to cook rarely is. Sometimes a kid shows innate interest. Sometimes we make it so irresistible (chocolate cake batter, for instance) that the little people start sniffing around the kitchen looking for a beater to lick. But, taking the time to TEACH them to cook is a whole different ball game. First, it is a mess. Second, it has its share of actual peril in the form of burns and cuts. And, it makes a job that you are hoping to knock out in a half an hour take a much longer amount of time. That is the biggest issue, frankly.
Even with my own kids, I pick the tasks that I invite them to do. I let them measure for me and crack eggs, for instance. But I rarely get them over to the stovetop to do the actual cooking. And that is a bit sad, really, for several reasons. First, they love it. And, second, as someone once said to me, “every time you do something FOR your child, you are taking away their opportunity to LEARN something.” I think that was a shoe tying quote, but it stands.
Where to start? I let my kids help with whatever I’m up to if they show interest or if I need an extra set of hands. But what do you do if you actually want to teach your kids to cook? Where do you actually start?
…Continue reading How to Boil Water: Bear Cooking School…a cub scout den meeting
I enjoy spices. In another life, which would involve a certainty of more taxes, red tape, leases and the not entirely remote possibility of bankruptcy…as these brick and mortar things often do, I will own a spice shop. So it is a short lived fantasy that ends in despair but the shelves will be filled with spice bins and my favorite olive oils and a precious smattering of only the kitchen talismans and tools that one truly needs. There will be rolling pins and my favorite cookbooks. There will be a shelf of heirloom dried beans and a freezer containing pig lard and duck fat for pie crusts and such. I will have a bit of coffee just so you can come in and get comfortable and chat with me about your favorite ingredients and dishes.
And we will play in the spice bins and create mixes. And it will be fun.
By the by, don’t tell me I’m a pessimist. We are all horrible about shopping at Amazon and the little cute shops do fail…and I’m too happily busy at just this moment to pencil in a belly flop.
…Continue reading Cajun Spice Mix…great for black bean soup
I’m not prone to massive shifts in habits. Do not worry that I’ve gone vegan on you. As long as there are smoked briskets or cheddar fries with bacon in the world, that is somewhat unlikely. But one does occasionally start experiencing the dreaded too-snug-jeans, and in order avoid the inconvenience of having to buy an entire new wardrobe of larger clothes, one must relent and apply some moderation in habits.
Thus, you have noticed things like beans and roasted veggies with quinoa. You know you have put on the brakes when the quinoa shows up. At least beans have a good, down home, depression-food quality that causes an aura of comfort.
This smoothie/juice concoction absolutely reeks of trendiness and band-wagon hopping, kale chip eating, spirulina quaffing, fashion-vegan blather that usually gets me grumpy and headed for the nearest chopped beef sammie. And, as much as I love new kitchen appliances, I’m not buying a juicer. The acquisition of fun appliances must be moderated, too. Plus, if I need an honest to goodness, big, giant, amazing juice that captures a whole shopping basket of vegetables in a 12 ounce glass, I’ll just go over to The Gem in Preston Center. I think that is actually cheaper in the long-run. And, they have a disco ball. And, sometimes one just needs a little pick-me-up drink made by someone else while sitting under a disco ball. I can be hip for a moment. A friend of mine suggested that I could go pull her 15 year old juicer out of the garage if I wanted to. She said she bought one the first time they were hip (in the 70′s) and then bought another one the second time they became cool again (in the 90′s). Now she also just goes to the Gem and enjoys the peppy atmosphere and the disco ball instead of the work actually involved in feeding and running and cleaning a juicer. I’m with her. If I can’t do it in my Vita-Mix, I ain’t doin’ it. But, this, I can do in my blender.
…Continue reading Green Smoothie, Take 2