IMBB 11: Bitter Bean Breakdown

Clotilde recently asked me in an e-mail: “How come you don’t participate more in IMBB?”

My response was simple: “Because I never know when they’re about to happen and it’s too late.”

Her response was direct: “Well it’s about to happen. Beans. Do it!”

And so I did. I dug through my cookbooks for bean recipes. I settled upon the one that looked most promising: Patricia Well’s winter bean soup from her Provence cookbook. It involved two kinds of beans and one type of wheatberry—cranberry beans, kidney beans and wheatberries:


But there was something peculiar about this recipe. EVERY recipe I read that involved dried beans–from Mario Batali to Chez Panisse–said: “Soak them for at least 12 hours before using.” Every one! Except Patricia Wells didn’t say that. It was peculiar indeed.

Her only instruction was to put the beans and wheatberries in a sieve and run cold water over them. That I did. And then they went into a pot with a bit of olive oil, salt, and Rosemary (and, in my case, thyme, since I didn’t have enough Rosemary):


Then you add 1 28-oz can of tomatoes pureed in a food processor and 2 qts of water. You let it simmer for 45 minutes and you get this:


Looks good enough right? And the broth was fine. A bit watery, but acceptably flavorful.

But the beans had a snap to them that I didn’t enjoy. My guest said she didn’t mind them but my guest was recently labotomized.

Here’s the thing: maybe I don’t like beans? I mean, when I think about it: when was the last time I ate beans just because I like beans? When it comes with something: sure, fine. Like in a burrito. Beans are fine in a burrito. Or with rice. Beans and rice. That’s a standard bean dish. And it hits the spot, but I don’t love it. They’re just beans.

But maybe beans are deservedly underappreciated. I mean what do beans taste like anyway? Air? Earth? Sky? Water? They don’t have any taste. I mean, they pick up the taste of whatever you cook them in but how lame is that? That’s like the person at the party that has no personality but suddenly emulates the loud person. Or Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female.

I had a bit of a bitter bean breakdown. “I hate beans!” I declared loudly. My labotomized guest shushed me.

I put the bean soup in the fridge and began to sob with pain and regret. “WHY BEANS! WHYYYYY!”

Then 24 hours passed and I reheated the soup. Amazing: soaking overnight, the beans softened and the flavors melded. The soup tasted good. I ate two bowls.

The moral?

Maybe I don’t hate beans after all.

[P.S. Thanks Cathy for doing this! It was fun!]

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