The Norman Transcript

January 6, 2013

What is it about beans?

By Elizabeth Cowan
The Norman Transcript

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.

The rule is you must eat black-eyed peas and hog jowls for good luck on New Year’s Day.

Since I never made the acquaintance of either delicacy before marrying hubby, I had some adjustments to make. The hog jowls never passed my lips that I know of, but everyone was content with the ham substitution.

Now, the black-eyed peas were another matter. The first time I tasted them, they reminded me of iodine. Over the years, peas and I have reached an uneasy truce. I tolerate them when they are smothered in jalapeno peppers.

Imagine my excitement when I discovered that one brand produces the black-eyed peas with and without jalapenos. All was right with the world — until a mad dash to the grocery store on New Year’s Eve to pick up last-minute items included the doctored black-eyed peas, with unexpected results.

New Year’s Day dawned cold and blustery, with the promise of the Rose Bowl Parade, which probably padded the pockets of more than one wholesale florist, along with endless bowl games on the television. The New Year’s Day meal was ready, including a yummy ham and the black-eyed peas. Since I tend to dislike messy plate presentations, I provided separate bowls for the black-eyed peas. Hubby turned down my strong suggestion to use the bowls instead of creating a swim fest on his plate.

Then he casually remarked that those were not black-eyed peas.

“Of course they are,” she argued and grabbed the can to show him. “I bought the brand with the jalapenos. See!”

The can label clearly stated that the contents were pinto beans with jalapenos. That dirty, sneaky company tricked me.

Fortunately for me, hubby reacted the way he always did to my Southern cuisine blunders. He laughed.

May the new year bring you and yours luck, whether you eat the correct beans or peas or whatever.

Elizabeth is an author and freelance writer. Visit her website www.elizabethcowan.com. Please check out her new novel, “The Dionysus Connection,” on Amazon.

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