Friday, March 30, 2007


I got beans in the mail!

For those who don't know, every December Pim over at Chez Pim organizes Menu for Hope, which raises money to feed hungry people internationally by having food bloggers auction off prizes--books, dinners, cooked treats, ingredients, etc. This year, over $60,000 went to the World Food Programme.

There's something politically ambivalent about raffles like this. It structures giving around needing to be rewarded for the giving, such that only when your own wellbeing is increased by giving will you give. This means, in essense, that those who need financial assistance aren't worthy of receiving assistance unless they can give something back, which exacerbates their subserviant position vis-a-vis the donors. There's also the global politics of food aid, which some have argued helps keep famine cycles going in the developing world by preventing governments from having to answer fully to their populations for allowing mass starvation. (This is the argument of Alex de Waal's Famine Crimes; those with academic access can read this review on JSTOR, and others can check it out here and here. The basic thesis goes back to Amartya Sen's work on famine.) Finally, it's actually against my religion--Quakers strongly advise against participating games of chance, even those that frame themselves as "schemes of benevolence." Obviously, that doesn't matter to most people, but it's something I think about.

However, I decided to bid, because, well, I believe in the UN system, including the WFP, and because some of the prizes were fantastic. There's also the simple fact that, although there are lots of things wrong-ish with these sorts of events, there's also something really right: people giving nice things to strangers in order to help other strangers. So I bid. And I won beans.

Specifically, six pound of beans, a pound of quinoa, a pound of amaranth, a pound of popcorn, a bottle of hot sauce, and a lovely calendar, generously donated by Rancho Gordo, an amazing grower of heirloom beans and grains in Napa. When I was in the Bay Area in June, I bought a pound of their Anasazi beans, which are spotted red and black and have a flavor in the pinto family; they were delicious, and I got hooked. So it was clearly necessary to bid for them--and I won!

I got to select my bean varieties, so I got a good mix. Flageolets, for cassoulet. Vallarta, because they are green in the picture. Good Mother Stallard, because the description is so glowing. Brown Tepary Beans, one of the oldest varieties cultivated, which Gary Paul Nabhan wrote about so eloquently in his book Coming Home to Eat. Ojos de Tigre, for the stripes. And Vaqueros, because, while I loved the Anasazi beans, I had to try something new. The grains look lovely, and the hot sauce is powerful, which is what I like.

The calendar is fun, but it caused a fight in the household. It has a picture called La Jóven de Limones, and The Boy and I had a large fight about the meaning of the title. Essentially, we were agreeing, but we felt the need to yell, because we were using different terms to explain the same thing. Because one of us is a native speaker of Spanish, and one of us pretends she is a linguist. I won't recap the fight, because it was too dumb for words, but it revolved around this essential point:

In Spanish, these are limónes:

And these are limas:

We didn't disagree about that. Like I said, not worth recapping. We tend to call them the green ones and the yellow ones around here, just to be clear.

Getting back to the beans, I've started using them. You saw the Good Mother Stallards at the dinner party we held a few weeks back; they were definitely a hit, and I'm sad they're gone. The night I got the beans, I cooked up some of the Vallartas. Mine are much browner than in the photos. They were, however, the best freakin' beans I've ever had. Since I had been reading Barbara's entries on greens, and I had some spinach aging quickly in the fridge and a new bunch of kale, this recipe came together easily.

Rancho Gordo Beans and Greens

Put one cup dried Vallarta beans in water on the stove, and boil until done, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, pull the leaves of half a bunch of lacinato kale off the stems in long strips, and throw them in a bowl of cold water with two handfuls of baby spinach. Chop an onion and two cloves of garlic. When the beans are mostly done (edible but still hard at the center), heat olive oil in a pan (I used a 2 3/4 quart enameled cast-iron dutch oven) over medium-high heat and add the onions and a smidge of salt. Once they have started to soften, add the garlic and let it cook briefly. While it is cooking, pull all of the greens out and chop them quickly into decent size pieces. (It came to about 4 cups of greens.) Toss them into the pan, stirring to cover them with the oil while sprinkling with a little more salt. Let it cook slowly. Once the beans are just a hair short of done (when the skins just start splitting when you blow on the hot beans), pull them out and add them to the greens, along with enough cooking liquid to almost cover the beans over the greens. Add as much Rio Fuego Very Hot Sauce as you want. Cover the pot and let simmer for 5-7 minutes. Uncover, let the liquid cook off, and serve immediately, with more hot sauce if necessary.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Freezing the Goodness

I return to the real world today, after a brief foray into a mysterious land called Spring Break, which puports to be some sort of 'vacation' or 'holiday' but, at least in my case, looked identical to a normal week, just without the 8 hours of class. You know, I remember spring break in college--the senior year getaway to Paris, the trip with Model UN to Brazil, the other, less pleasant weeks--and this pseudo-vacation just doesn't cut it.

(However, I did apparently take a vacation from blogging. I'll blame that on midterm exam + presentation + week of 'vacation,' if you don't mind.)

One of the main things I did over break, however, was cook. I took a bunch of hours on Friday, and cooked and packaged and froze food to keep me and my household going over the next seven weeks of forced march to the end of my semester and my wedding, which happen to coincide perfectly. (Final exam on Thursday, wedding on Saturday, papers due and leave for honeymoon on Monday.)

Here are the results:


This is my freezer. Obviously I didn't make everything in here, but here's a tour:

Top shelf, left to right: corn and cheese empanadas, vegetable korma with rice and dal, xanthan gum for gluten-free baking, frozen bought cilantro and basil, broccoli I steamed and froze, gluten-free frozen pizza, bag of scraps for stock, ice pack.

Bottom shelf, left to right: peanut butter cup ice cream, millet pilaf with kale and chickpeas, bagels, millet pilaf with lentils, beet stems, and broccoli, mole-from-a-jar over mixed vegetables and rice, black bean soup (in yogurt container), more millet with lentils, beet stems, and broccoli, homemade polenta, big yogurt container full of Moroccan chickpeas with dried fruit, more empanadas (bean and rice), matar tofu with rice and dal, black bean chipotle burgers (gluten-free).

And, for good measure, the freezer door:

freezer door

Top shelf, left to right: catnip, strawberry chardonnay sorbet, more peanut butter cup ice cream, extra butter, caramel ice cream purchased sometime last calendar year, candy bought in Rehoboth.

Bottom shelf, left to right: chicken hotdogs none of the carnivores in the house like which are therefore languishing in the freezer, frozen mixed vegetables, almond flour, gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate peanut butter fudge rice ice cream, brown rice flour, soy flour.

(Not pictured: the broccoli, polenta, and beets that I put in the fridge to use sooner rather than later, and the black bean soup I moved to the fridge to force me to eat it--it's 2 months old already.)

(To answer the obvious questions: This is about a week's supply of ice cream for the three of us. The catnip is in the freezer because the cats can find it anywhere else.)

This is such a strange task of housewifery, preparing meals in advance and storing them in the freezer. For me, though, it's about survival. Here's the dirty little secret in all of this bounty: I'm going to eat 95% of it. That's right. While the polenta in the fridge and the double batch of pasta I make every other week or so ends up eaten by all of us, this stuff is mainly for me to eat while I'm working, when I get home late and the Wife has other leftovers to eat, or when I'm commuting between babysitting and class. The reasons are many: I don't have time to cook from scratch every time I'm hungry, I don't have the money to buy something to eat every day, and too much takeout and prepared food gets old, gets expensive, and gets unhealthy.

This is self-care you are witnessing, which makes it possible for me to care for those around me. I know it's not that radical to some...but I have some trouble with it, so it's a step.

So now, back into the abyss. I have a post for later this week on schemes of benevolence, the famine relief industry, and the names of citrus fruits in Spanish; and another coming soon on the politics of wedding consumption. So keep your eyes on this space. I promise, I'm off vacation now. Not that I even noticed.