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!]

12 thoughts on “IMBB 11: Bitter Bean Breakdown”

  1. It’s “lobotomized.”

    And, despite my name, I don’t like beans all that much either. You go, boy!

  2. The non-soaking would make sense for the cranberry beans, as they turn to mush if you cook them for too long and/or soak and cook. I have no idea why this method would be suggested for the kidney beans. They do need to be soaked.

    debra – is my blog burning

  3. snap? you didn’t cook them long enough. it was better next day cause residual heat + reheat= done. beans are hugely flavourful.

  4. I represent the Legume Legal Fund (the LLF). Your defaming post is cause for a law suit. I will see your bean hating ass in court.

  5. You know Adam, maybe yours is a morality tale. And beans are wonderful, partially blended lentil soup with rice or pasta is a favourite confort food of mine.

  6. I am almost vegetarian (I eat meat only very occasionally) and so I should love beans, but I can’t say that I do. I surely LIKE them, in a hippy dippy earthy foods kind of way – bean soups, dips, salads, refried beans, spicy indian lentils – but I can’t think of many bean recipes that inspire a WOW!!! except for the very meat based cassoulet with the help of duck legs, sausage and pork.

  7. I know what you mean about beans. I always feel as if I should like them more. They’re so nice, so virtuous, so fiber-filled and fat-free, so….smug. I do like beans that have a sort of creamy texture, like white beans — but as you put it, they need lots of flavors since they don’t have a whole lot of their own. They’re sort of background material for good stuff like garlic and herbs and olive oil…

  8. What happened to the vodka post?!?!? I thought it was interesting and not something you read about everyday!

  9. Recipes always tell you to soak beans because other recipes say that. But really, soaking beans does little for the flavor and the only purpose of it is to reduce cooking time by 1/2 hour or so. For me, waiting an extra 1/2 hour for beans to cook is less of a pain in the ass than planning out my dinner the night before.

  10. Hi Adam – I’m glad you’ve come to love…er, not hate beans! I think your soup sounds great! I think aba might be right – a longer cooking time might be the answer (45 minutes is not much time). Thanks so much for participating in IMBB 11 – see you at IMBB 12 – right?

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