FRIJOLES DE AMOR

By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
 Copyright © 1997-2010
All Rights Reserved

 

          I doubt that many often think seriously of beans. That’s really sad. We should all think frequently of beans. Think of beans right now – take a break and do that, please – just a minute or two will suffice.

          OK What bean(s) did you think of just now? Please don’t tell me string beans or green beans. They’re OK, but they aren’t the beans of the outdoor dinner scene in “Blazing Saddles”. Sitting around a camp fire, hot in front of you while your back is cold, with several other farm/ranch hands, eating bacon/salt pork and beans seems to me to be a prerequisite to manhood. Is there an equivalent female experience? How would I know? Maybe someone will send a comment about what the girls do that equates to the male beans bonding experience.

          Growing up in South Carolina, we lacked the opportunity to be ranch hands. We had to make do with the Boy Scout and Civil Air Patrol outdoor meals experiences, or maybe a camping or hunting trip or an overnight hike. I thought that was really hot stuff, but in the movies on Saturday there were cowboys eating beans around a campfire that drove me wild with the desire to get home and open a can of beans. Just as pretty girls draped across the bonnet of a hot car sold automobiles, did cowboy movies really exist for the purpose of triggering subliminal bean passions? I lived such a parochial existence in those days. I thought Campbells and Van Camp were the only kinds of beans in the whole world. Frijoles a la charra and borracho beans were to be watershed events in later life. Today there is an enormous palette of beans that extends for maybe thirty feet in the HEB grocery store that is my particular Garden of Eden. There is an entire aisle over which the section sign just says BEANS. Your imagination could not possibly conjure up the varieties of canned beans there. I mean from beans in chili gravy on up to Bush’s Best red kidney beans, in any degree of piquancy you might like, the list is endless.

          I recall the dilemma of having to choose between a can of beans and going on a date with a real girl. A can of beans was only a nickel in those days, and taking a girl to a movie and to the drug store for a chocolate soda or banana split (if you were really in love), including bus fare, was at least $ 1.35. I also had to brush my teeth and wash up and put on clean clothes and behave nice for the date, while I could have the can of beans au natural so to speak. Life was so complicated when puberty started rearing its head. Is puberty the point in a boy’s life at which he has to stress over competing desires like that?

          I was at least 30 years old before I discovered dried beans. Dried beans are a palette upon which you may depict any gastronomic excitement imaginable. I probably wasn’t ready for that before 30. Had I the luxury to have grown up country poor rather than urban marginal, I might have discovered dried beans a lot sooner. I might also have had a more literal introduction to what to do with various other urges that begin just before one’s ninth or tenth birthday. Farm kids see animals doing things that a lot of city kids notice only if some dog does it. “Daddy, what are those dogs doing?” Farm kids are more at ease with issues that city kids struggle over.

          I went to grammar school and high school with kids from an economic, though not a color, spectrum. I could never imagine Mary Ellen Long eating beans. Joy Holcombe wouldn’t even speak to any kid who ate beans, I am sure. Joan Retalic’s mother wouldn’t even allow her to come to the phone when I called her. I had no business telephoning a girl above my social station anyway. Had I never eaten a bean in my whole life, cleaned up real good and dressed to the nines, her mother would not have allowed her to come to that phone. Charleston was like that. She asked me why I was calling Joan. I told her I wanted to know if Joan felt like going to a double feature on Saturday afternoon. She said “with you?” I asked her if there was a problem and she said (I swear this is a verbatim quote) “Yes. Someone might see her with you.” I never again ever called a girl who lived south of Broad Street.

          I had a date with Binky Reid one Saturday. We walked along The Battery and when I kissed her she passed gas rather loudly. I fell instantly in love. Here was a girl who obviously also loved beans. She looked into my eyes as though giving me a test of some sort. Was I going to notice what she just did, or was I a gentleman who would pretend it didn’t happen? What let me down at that moment was that I had avoided beans in anticipation of our date and was unable to reciprocate. It was a horrible experience of flatulent dysfunction. Our relationship foundered after that demonstration of inadequacy. I always imagined that she eventually married some guy who could fart the Star Spangled Banner.

          This morning I made a bean stew with cannellini beans that soaked in water overnight. I order large ham hocks from Karl Ehmer in New York, and I simmer one (they are huge) for four hours. I remove the hock from the wonderful resulting stock, season the stock with black pepper and cook the beans in that. I take the meat off the cooled hock and chop it up into the bean pot along with some sliced Brazilian or Argentine sausages available from the Phonecia Market a few minutes from here. You can do it with saucisse de Lyon if you like, or with whatever sausages your heart may desire. You might choose sausages of the same ethnicity as the girl you are about to invite over for dinner. Now that’s class!

          If you think that inviting a girl to dinner and serving beans is declassee, think Cassoulet, and think Cote du Rhone or Syrah or Zinfandel – as in maybe a Ridge Lytton Springs. If you know how to make Cassoulet, you will automatically be on any lovely woman’s A list. Small salad with a Chilena dressing (recipe at www.SeamusMuldoon.com in the gastronomy section) and crusty bread. YUM! Your subsequent ardor maybe be somewhat sonorous, but the mutuality of flatulence can be a real turn on.
 

 

 

 


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