Five busy weeks in the Sacramento area, and the only photos I have taken are of food! That’s what happens when we spend time with my family and friends – food talk, cooking, eating… and discussing what we’re planning to eat at our next meal. Boy, did we have fun!
While in Tucson in March, I stopped in at Native Seed/SEARCH – and began an unintentional love affair with heirloom beans (dried). Yum, yum – so much variety of color, texture, shape and taste. I picked up an inspiring cookbook while there, Heirloom Beans, which introduced me to Rancho Gordo, a source for heirloom beans in Napa, California. A visit to Rancho Gordo’s retail shop immediately went on my “to-do while in Sacramento” list… and I placed an order with them for twelve different kinds of beans, to be sent to my sister Sydney’s house in advance of our arrival in her neighborhood.
I love the sign in this tub of dried “touching beans”:
Rosanna couldn’t resist reaching into the tub, and neither could I. What a fun idea!
At the same time Odel and I were sampling new (to us) bean varieties in Arizona, Sydney (a vegetarian, along with my BIL Frank) had picked up a copy of The China Study and found the information presented there compelling. By the time we hit Sacramento, emails were whirling between me, Sydney, and our cousin Rosanna, a long-time vegetarian, about beans, veganism, and all related topics. And my 12 pounds of heirloom beans had arrived from Rancho Gordo.
So we planned an event.
Six cooks in our family – my younger sister Nancy, my older sister Sydney, BIL Frank, cousin Rosanna, Auntie Carol (Rosanna’s mom), and I – each chose one kind of bean and took it home. We picked a later date to convene at Rosanna’s new home (she and Auntie Carol just moved up to Placerville from Sunizona, Arizona) with our cooked beans.
Clockwise from upper left: Good Mother Stallard Bean and Barley Stew; Black Beans in Red Velvet Mole on Mashed Sweet Potatoes; Louisiana Red Beans and Rice (using Lila beans); Christmas Lima Beans and New Potatoes in Miso Bagna Cauda; Black Bean “burgers” with Salsa (using Ojo de Cabra beans); Cannellini Beans with Broccoli Rabe on Garlic Toast.
On the chosen day, we each arrived with our beans. In preparation, we had each set aside enough plain cooked beans that all of us could taste each bean “unadorned”; the rest of each bean type was prepared as a vegan dish. Following the wine tasting example (and with both wine and beer at hand), each cook introduced their chosen bean while we passed the unadorned sample for poking, prodding, admiring and tasting. And of course, I had prepared a note sheet for all participants. :) Each bean was discussed in its turn, copious notes taken, opinions exchanged.
With so many vegetarians in our family, with my newfound obsession with beans, and with lots of discussion amongst us about The China Study, Forks Over Knives, and The Engine 2 Diet, even Odel’s interest was piqued. (By the way, if you are interested in “the other side of the story”, this witty, thorough and well-written blog is an interesting read.) We both would like to reduce our cholesterol and our weight, so we’ve decided to explore a “plant-strong, whole foods” menu for four weeks, beginning when we head off for our summer travels on Monday.
It is difficult to imagine that Odel and I would give up our omnivore ways permanently (though I must say that the “pink slime” story was extremely unappetizing!), but we both enjoy food adventures. Eating “plant-strong, whole foods” (the Engine 2 Diet’s description of a no-animal-products diet that includes minimal amounts of processed foods) has introduced all sorts of new foods and recipes into our lives (and mouths). I’m interested to learn what changes (if any) we see in ourselves after a month without meat or dairy… or store-bought cookies! Meanwhile, we’re finishing off the lamb chops, steaks, and Italian sausage pasta sauce still stashed in our freezer. :)