AM Inspiration: The Bean Eaters - Not a Casual Affair

Many people are seeking to cut down their meat intake for environmental and health reasons, but having beans for dinner doesn't have to equal what Gwendolyn Brooks called "a casual affair."

The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.

Dinner is a casual affair.

Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,

Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.

Two who have lived their day...

Far from "mostly good," beans are nutritional stars, delivering protein, along with the magnesium, potassium, folate and fiber that are so lacking in the average American diet. Beans have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and colon cancer.

They are also very cheap, especially if bought in dried in bulk and soaked overnight or prepared in a crock pot.

I've been experimenting recently with various types of beans, attempting to make a homemade veggie burger that stacks up against (or rather, holds together against) the store bought brands. I'm still trying to find the perfect recipe, but favorites like red lentils with coconut milk and curry sauce, mung bean sprouts--fresh or sauteed--in just about everything, and black soy beans (for the extra protein) are my staples throughout the week.

Beans may have a humble connotation in some cultures, but in many Latin American countries, the bean occupies a more exalted place in the national tastes. Here's an excerpt from a bilingual children's picture book/cookbook:

Jorge Argueta’s Sopa de frijoles/ Bean Soup,

The water boils and sings.

The beans dance


The water has turned brown

the color of Mother Earth.

Your house

smells wonderful

like the earth

after the first

winter rains.

Tradition has been coming up against modern forces like globalization in some countries. In the past two years, the price of beans in Mexico has doubled, to the extent that trucks carrying corn and beans have been hijacked.

See an explanation of Mexico, food prices, and globalization here.

So go ahead, at least one night a week become one of the Bean Eaters--healthy, environmentally responsible, but never boring. Serve them on your best china.

Tags: Bean, Diet, Food, Globaliation, Gwendolyn brooks, Latin america, Mexico, Nutrition, Poetry, Protein

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