Thursday, August 30, 2012

Humble Food - Beans

Humble Food - Beans

There is humble food, and there is glorious food, simple food and elaborate food, and plenty of food in between. I make humble, simple food most of the time. My chefy son-in-law, Gareth, makes glorious, elaborate food. We Americans are very fortunate.

If you want glorious food, please read my daughter Mary’s blog, Mary’s Food Journal, It includes some humble food, such as grilled cheese sandwiches, but more often it is about something more elaborate. It is filled with pictures.

I think foodies like glorious food.  Glorious food includes beef Wellington or coq au vin. It’s complicated and requires careful preparation.

For humble, plain food, I step forward once again.  Humble food is unpretentious, simple, and isn’t loaded with ingredients like herbs and spices, although it contains some. Humble food often has origins in traditional diets of ordinary people from around the world. Junk food is in neither category. A big mac is something designed by someone from outer space. Ditto pre-packaged dehydrated potatoes. Some foods are in both categories. Fruit cobbler fits my definition of humble food with humble origins, but it turns up in upscale restaurants on dessert menus.

A word about specialties. People who cook have specialties. Mine is sugar cookies. When I started this blog, sugar cookies were the first installment.  I like what Peg Bracken said about specialties for people who don’t like to cook, i.e. people who cook simple, uncomplicated foods: “…the recipe for your specialty needn’t be complicated. In fact, it better hadn’t be, because there is always that off-chance that someday you might have to demonstrate. It just needs to be good and a little bit interesting, that’s all.” (Peg Bracken, The I Hate to Cook Book, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1960, p.157). Her book recently was re-published and probably is in your public library. Peg Bracken was right, even though she was aiming at people who don’t like to cook and I am talking about people who like to cook but like to cook simply with real food. My specialties are not pre-packaged.

Enter the lowly bean. Most of us have heard jokes about people who eat beans and produce gas as a by-product. Remember the old verse, “Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot…” Beans have a low class reputation. Well, I’m here to tell you that there is more to beans than ridicule. Beans are plain, simple, nutritious and versatile. Beans are special. They represent culture.

What follows is a recipe for beans and rice with pickles. I served it to my family occasionally before everyone grew up. It is so simple and unpretentious that some of them don’t remember it. Recently I took it to a potluck supper, and, you guessed it, I took a lot of it home again. Unlike glorious food, it looks un-glamorous. Three cheers for something that doesn’t look like much but tastes good. It can be halved easily. Don’t be afraid to try this. Be bolder than the potluck crowd.

Rice-bean Salad

1 cup cooked rice (I use brown rice)
1 (1 lb.)can kidney beans, drained (or cook dry kidney beans)
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
½ cup sweet pickles, chopped
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped green pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Crisp lettuce or other greens

Combine ingredients in mixing bowl. Chill in refrigerator. Serve on crisp greens. Makes 6 to 8 servings. For the best flavor combine ingredients while rice is hot.
(Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, edited by Nell B. Nichols, Doubleday, 1959, p.32)