I just got back from biking to the library. Biking is a hobby I recently picked up in the interest of saving more money and growing my ‘stash (thanks Mr. Money Mustache for kicking my butt into gear on this), but libraries have been something I’ve loved since I was an elementary school student. I made the trip today to try and locate a particular book: Ken Albala’s Beans: A History. Now before you start wondering if this is just a fan blog for Professor Albala (he actually has his own blog, I discovered the existence of this and his Beans book yesterday), I promise I will pull from many other sources, not just his works. It’s just that he was my introduction to this scintillating intersection of food nerdistry and history, and I already know he can present it in a way that my history-lesson-averse brain can handle!
Anyways, I think I’ve settled on the first food I want to explore on this blog. In case you can’t tell from my chasing after this book (my librarian very helpfully requested an inter-library loan for me, and it should be here within a month!), the first food I’m going to be looking into is beans!
I love beans.
Sometimes they don’t love me back, but that doesn’t stop me from indulging. We threw some chickpeas in our dinner on a whim on Saturday. Actually I’m not sure chickpeas are a bean. Let me check…
Yes, they are a bean! Because the are garbanzo beans and I am a silly and forgot they were the same thing.
Beans are what encouraged me to teach myself canning — I’m a big fan of beans, but not of all the salt they usually get packed with*! In fact, the fancy chalkboard drawing (and un-fancy lettering, I’ll have to work on that) above came about the last time my husband and I had a bean canning session.
I also grew some beans in my garden this year, though I need to be a much more disciplined gardener if I want to get the kind of harvest that will give me enough to can. The flowers are gorgeous though! I wish I had pictures of the monsters those cute little purple blooms turned into. The site where I bought the seeds will have to do.
But apart from how to can them and how to grow (not enough) of them, what do I know about beans?
I know humans have been eating them for a long, long time. They feature in Indian, Mexican, Italian, and English cuisine, not to mention in good ‘ol American barbecue. I know there are ‘old world’ and ‘new world’ beans , but not which beans belong to which group (thank you Professor Albala, and I’m sorry for forgetting). But where were they used first? How were they used? Heck, I don’t even have a complete picture of how they’re used now!
I also know beans were used to vote, but I don’t know to what extent. I know Pythagoras (my math bro!) refused to eat beans but I don’t think that everybody can agree why (another tidbit I learned from Professor Albala’s Great Courses lectures). So that sounds like a fun story to dig into, too!
While I wait for the book focusing on the matter of Beans, I hope to do a little preliminary digging and to start answering some of these questions and hopefully think of some more.
Oh! And maybe I’ll put up a recipe for the dish we added chickpeas (garbanzo beans!) to, it turned out really tasty!