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January 6, 2013

What is it about beans?

NORMAN — Did you know beans have the power to define who you are and where you live?

For example, in Eastern European and Mediterranean countries, lentils and chickpeas are commonly used.

However, you must promise never to mention lentils around our daughter because she dislikes them and was and still is quite vocal about her feelings toward the poor little lentil. She claims to like lentils in salads and such, but not the way I prepared them, which was the way my Hungarian mother prepared them.

This brings to mind a saying the old Romans and my parents were fond of quoting: “De gustibus non est disputandum.” Literally translated, “When it comes to taste, there can be no dispute.” Actually, there can and is frequent dispute, but no one wins the argument because taste is subjective.

Inexplicably, the simple green bean has managed to gain acceptance across the board from posh restaurants to almost any family gathering, with variations suited to the location.

When we were married, I vowed never to cook things his mom cooked because she was awesome. But hubby often spoke longingly of red beans and how much he liked them. So, I broke my vow, bought and prepared red beans and proudly served them to hubby.

]“These aren’t red beans, they are kidney beans,” he said.

“But the label said red beans,” she wailed.

“What we call red beans are really pinto beans,” he explained.

“Pinto beans are brown!”

He smiled and gave me a hug.

Black beans often make their appearance in Mexican dishes. But after coming across a mashed version in some forgettable restaurant, I frequently refer to them as “baby poop.” Well, the mashed version looks like it.

In Southern cuisine, black-eyed peas and pinto beans are a staple. In fact, the food superstition around black-eyed peas messed with my non-southern and non-country upbringing.

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