I have a long-standing animosity with beans.
I blame my upbringing. Mom and Dad spent a good chunk of my childhood whittling away at debt, which they had amassed raising four children and sending Dad to law school at age 30. My parents saw the attack on debt as a progression of lower bill statements. Us kids saw it as a year living in a trailer house—my sister got her own bedroom, and we three boys crammed into the other one, where my little brother slept on a piece of plywood balanced between the bunk bed frame and the chest of drawers—and an unending succession of crock pot bean soups.
Mom, if you’re reading this, I had a great childhood and I love you a lot.
I saw beans as poor-people food. They were something you ate when there was no other financial option. That, and the skins have this weird metallic taste.
I WANT TO LIKE BEANS
Beans are a great source of protein. They’re cheap to produce. They were domesticated in the Americas, which gives them patriotism points. Bean plants fix nitrogen and enrich the soil. There is nothing wrong, and a ton of things right, with the idea of beans.
The reality of beans, for me, is another story.
I should stop whining and just eat them. I’ll get used to them. Maybe I could use the Tiny Taste method. It’s scientific! I even cooked up a big pot of pinto beans just for this purpose, so that I could have some in the fridge ready for me to take a little bite every day.
But it all comes down to the fact that if something doesn’t taste good, it’s really hard to remember to eat it. Cassoulet was the only bean preparation I had discovered that I actually liked, and that’s sure as hell not going to happen more than once every couple of months, so I figured I was stuck hating beans.
HOW THE EASIEST BEAN SOUP IN THE WORLD HAPPENED
My wife was out of town, and I was staying up late working on the new sustainable food permanent pages of my website. It was right around midnight. I realized that in my zest for making a website that was all about eating, I had completely forgotten to eat.
Drive-through food goes against all my standards, unless I’m feeling particularly screw everything. Cooking was not an option; I was numb from sleep loss, and not sure I could stay awake for longer than another fifteen minutes. (In my old age—I’m 32—midnight is pushing the danger zone; I’m usually in bed by 10:30.) The only thing in the fridge was a plastic screw-top full of those damn pinto beans.
I was desperate. So I grabbed a 2-cup tupperware of homemade chicken stock from the freezer, dumped it into a soup pan, thawed and brought it to a simmer, and added a couple of spoonfuls of those beans. A pinch of salt, and I tasted it.
It was not bad.
Actually, the easiest bean soup ever was good. Hot and simple and nourishing, with the beans sparse enough to provide taste and substance but not distract me with their weird metallic skins… I could do this a lot.
I have done it a lot, lately. Usually when the wife is out of the house and I need something fast. It’s simple enough to take a lot of variations easily, like extra vegetables, or pasta, or on top of couscous. There’s enough variety to keep things from getting boring.
It also just tastes really good for you. Like chicken noodle soup. It would be a great soup to have if you’re sick.
But I don’t need to be sick to enjoy it.
My relationship with beans might still be tense. But it’s getting better. If I make the easiest bean soup ever often enough, we may even get to be nodding friends.
- 1/2 cup cooked or canned pinto, black, navy, or cannellini beans
- 2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
- a pinch of salt
- Combine in a soup pan and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.