Beans matter

Did you ever see the episode of Columbo where he gets a new raincoat? He has to dump it in favor of his old one when he’s having trouble wrapping his brain around the latest case. “I just can’t think in this thing,” he laments, tossing the new one aside and pulling on the trusty, well-worn article.

It’s a bit like that with Alene’s new coffee mug. Admittedly, it is smaller – so coffee purchases are going to seem less good of a deal, especially when ordering Americano, which is usually priced by the shot as opposed to the size of the final drink when diluted with water – although some coffee shops do charge for the extra water! I told her the smaller drink will taste better – and she now realizes I’m right. And the drink actually lasts as long, because she drinks the stronger brew more slowly.

We both have pinto beans cooking. There’s nothing hard about cooking dried beans. I once tuned into Alene one morning when she was telling someone on the bus how to cook beans. And this was a person who considers himself a serious cook with a bookcase full of cookbooks. Somehow, the idea of soaking beans overnight makes it seem complicated. Well, you don’t have to soak them – and there’s nothing complicated about it at all.

One thing I made sure to bring with me is a small slow cooker. Nothing fancy. The simplest model is enough. Fill one-third full with dried beans. Add salt, dried onion flakes, and any other seasonings you fancy, such as cumin, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cayenne pepper, curry powder – although perhaps not all at the same time! Fill up with cold water, place the lid, plug in, and let sit for eight hours. By then the beans are cooked, and all you have to do is dump into a pot for the final boiling. Then they are ready to do what you want with them. Alene often plugs in a pot of beans at bedtime and unplugs in the morning. In the evening she comes home from work and can make refried beans in five minutes.

We made another lemon-poppyseed cake too. It’s hard work mixing a cake by hand! In the early days, Alene and I would watch Martha Stewart Living on TV – the show she did before she went to jail for insider trading. (I once narrowly escaped being done for that myself!) Anyway, she had a spot she called “Cake of the week.” And we remembered that there once was a time when if a family was to enjoy having a cake in the house, then someone had to make it from scratch – and it was a lot of work, so perhaps you would only get around to it once a week.

I wonder what it was like being in jail with Martha Stewart……

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