Let’s Eat — A Writer’s Guide to Cooking

For some odd reason, we have beans almost every Thursday. This has been going on for years now. When it’s Thursday and one of the kids wants to know what we’re having for supper, my wife and I answer, “What do you mean, what are we having? Today is Thursday, isn’t it?” And since today is Thursday, and since there is a panful of beans simmering on the stove at this very moment, it seems only right to elaborate on this fascinating subject.

Today’s beans are pinto beans. We have pinto beans more often than any other kind. But we also enjoy Great Northern beans, small white beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, and ten-bean soup, even though the latter also contains split peas and pearled barley.

Since the pintos are my responsibility this time around, I will focus on today’s particular version. At five-thirty this morning, I sorted and rinsed a pound of beans, then put them in the pan and covered them with water to soak. About six hours later, I dumped the soak-water and rinsed the beans again. Then I added about seven cups of hot water and put the pan on the stove with the heat on high to get things going. When the water started to boil, I lowered the heat, first to medium-high, then to medium. While the beans began to cook, I got the other ingredients together: two tomatoes; half a dozen cloves of garlic; a medium-sized yellow onion; about a quarter of a bell pepper; a couple of stalks of celery; and a small handful of parsley.

After double-checking the beans to make sure they were still bubbling, I washed everything but the onion and the garlic and started chopping. First I chopped the tomatoes and put them in a bowl. Then I peeled and chopped the garlic and put it on top of the tomatoes. The onion followed, except that it was sliced instead of chopped. But it could have been chopped. It doesn’t really matter. Then I chopped the celery and the pepper and scraped them from our cutting board into the bowl. Last but not least, I plucked the parsley leaves off of the main stems, which were on the tough side, discarded the stems, and finely chopped the parsley. I mixed the ingredients together with the knife, then checked the beans again.

They were fine. Since I usually don’t add the other stuff until the beans have cooked for about an hour, I made a great big baloney sandwich on extra-sourdough bread and turned on “Perry Mason.” About this time, our oldest son came home for lunch. Noticing the activity in the kitchen, he said, “What’re you making?” And I said, “It’s Thursday, isn’t it?” Then he made a sandwich.

Our sandwiches were gone in no time. He had a glass of chocolate milk for dessert. I had Armenian coffee. He left. I stayed.

Moments later, it was time to add the other ingredients. But first, I gave the beans a stir. I might have stirred them once or twice before; I don’t quite remember. I dumped in the ingredients, letting them pile up in the center. I added a lot of salt and black pepper, and then a lot of dry purple basil. I stirred everything together, then I added what was probably between two and three tablespoons of olive oil. Then, for the sake of variety, I tossed in a couple of small handfuls of pearled barley, and a similar amount of lentils. I gave things another stir and inhaled the steam. I could tell by the aroma that I was still a little short on salt and pepper, so I shook in some more. I also added a little more basil. I stirred once again. A few minutes later, things were simmering again and I set the heat on low. The beans have been simmering ever since. I have stirred them two or three times.

About five minutes ago, I checked on the beans and tasted the juice. Perfect. Then I ate a couple of the beans. They were still a little on the firm side, so I am letting them cook awhile longer. All told, it looks like they will take about two and a half hours. They smell great. Later, when our youngest son comes home from school, he will ask what it’s the pan. And I know just what to tell him.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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