Maybe this post is only minimally about a recipe – but in searching for a last bean dish of the year (before making black-eyed peas for New Year’s and coming full circle), I realized that in spite of all the red in the kitchen this season (pomegranates, pears, persimmons, and peppers), I hadn’t thought of cooking red beans.
Mark Bittman’s recipe for “Red Beans and Rice” calls for coconut milk and hot spices (an appropriate taste of Thailand added to our holiday). I’ll start the kidney beans – then cook onion, pepper, and celery in olive oil until softened, and add thyme, bay leaves, allspice (or chili powder to taste), and two cups chopped tomatoes. When the tomatoes break up, add to the bean mixture, and cook until the beans are very tender.
Add a cup and a half of long-grained white rice (we bought Thai rice) and three cups canned coconut milk to the beans, turn heat to low and cook till the rice is tender and the liquid absorbed.
Ah beans: flexible, resilient, dependable, interesting, desirable.
Beans have been one of the many joys of this year’s experience with “Her spirits rose….” I’m tempted to ask my readers about going forth. I do think about that a lot – but maybe I need to go beyond thinking to a plan.
The schedule mattered to me this year – but maybe I needn’t keep so closely to that? Maybe if the blog continues, it could be once a week – day uncertain, longer or shorter. Maybe trusting myself enough to allow a little randomness – perhaps not so frequent or sometimes more frequent when called for.
I have loved the discipline and the routine, loved the exchanges around writing with the wordsmith (generous with her time and expertise) and my husband (always good-natured about his “first reader” task). Thank you both.
And I’ve loved “having” to think about illustrating each week – making new or using my archive – often working fast and always with pleasure.
It was fun to make a cast of characters from the important people in my life. From the young writer to the mother of my young friend, I have shamelessly appropriated your quirks and stories to share. Thank you.
I have appreciated hearing from readers, in comments and in extra emails – even in lovely, paper letters – about what this effort has meant in your lives. Those missives did much to support this year’s output. Thank you all.
My relationship to food and cooking has grown and sustained me also. Now it seems obvious that if one is concerned with the art of daily life – food looms large.
Back to the red beans. A reader in London told me in an email that in cultures where rice is the most important staple (like his native Japan) beans are for special occasions. He writes: “especially the red bean is for a festive occasion (white rice and red bean makes an auspicious combination).”