Beans beans the musical fruit
The more you eat the more you toot
The more you toot the better you feel
So eat beans for every meal.
The Queen of the Bean
The other day it dawned on me, I am a female athlete of a certain age. As such, my need for protein has increased dramatically. Given that my diet is predominantly vegetarian, this poses something of a challenge. I track my nutritional intake daily and I’m lucky if I hit 50% of my RDA of protein. I am the first to admit that I can be a bit slow at times, but it finally hit me that beans, my dietary staple since my early days as a vegetarian, are packed with both fiber and protein, and they are low in calories. Just one cup of cooked beans has an average of 225 calories and nearly 20% of your RDA of protein. I had been slacking on my bean consumption, which was a stupid omission on my part. Therefore, The Bean Queen has returned!
It was the mid-80s and I was on exchange in London when I quit eating meat. It was “a thing” amongst my friends in London and Cambridge. Not surprisingly, it was also a thing in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. My oldest brother and his girlfriend had forsaken meat as well. I had plenty of role models. I looked up to my big brother and I adored his sassy girlfriend. Morrissey was crooning about meat and how it was murder. Sting, Robert Smith, and Paul McCartney were all vegetarians, some more vocal than others. Back in the 80s it was cool to be vegetarian. Of course I wanted to emulate “cool”, but I also had a horrific experience that opened my eyes to just how “un-cool” meat was.
Back home in the USA, meat is precisely cut up, placed in Styrofoam plates, covered neatly with clear plastic wrap, and labeled “chuck, brisket, sirloin, round, shank, flank, skirt…”. I remember Morrissey saying something like, “A kid would not even know that the package contained pieces of cow!” But Morrissey said a lot of over-the-top things about eating meat. While in Europe, I would learn that reality is a wee bit different.
I was kicking around Cork, Ireland and stumbled into a market that encompassed one entire square block. I thought it would be like the Portland Saturday Market with an eclectic collection of food stalls (both raw and prepared), arts and crafts, patchouli oil, and street buskers. I could not have been more wrong. By the time I was dead center, I realized the entire square block was devoted to flesh. I’m not talking about red-light district flesh, but animal flesh of every variety – fish, fowl, and fauna. Every variety of meat was displayed in its original packaging, either still kicking, flopping, or squawking, or dead and hanging. Men in blood-stained white-aprons were running past with the gutted carcass of an entire pig thrown over their shoulder, or the dry-aged leg of mutton that has rotted to a light shade of green. Hanging from some stalls were strings of aged, un-plucked pheasants, the meat seemingly dripping off their feet. There were miles of ground up animal, stuffed into pig intestines that doubled as sausage casings. Even more horrific than the visual was the stench. The air was filled with the stink of blood, death, rot, and decay. My nostrils were burning, my eyes watering, and my guts were churning. I’m sure I threw up in my mouth, more than a little, as I dodged butchers and animal carcasses, racing towards the nearest exit. That day I vowed to quit eating meat forever.
Back at the University of Oregon in Eugene, it was simple to continue my vegetarian ways. At the time, Eugene was a university town filled with a bunch of patchouli-stinking, Birkenstock-wearing, granola-eating hippies. (Note: while I have been known to wear Birkenstocks, I do cook and eat granola, my hair tends towards dreadlocks if I’m not careful, and I have been accused of being a stinky hippy, I have never dabbed patchouli on my body). There was a plethora of community-based, natural and organic markets, lined with bins of dried goods and aisles of essential oils. It was during that time I became known as “The Bean Queen.” My diet consisted mainly of bean soups, vegetable pastas, Nancy’s yogurt(a dairy run by the family of Ken Kesey, of Merry Prankster and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fame), and homemade granola. I experimented with every variety of pea and legume available and honed my recipes to the easiest and most delicious possible. My first vegetarian cooking bibles were Laurel’s Kitchenby Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey, and Frances Moore Lappe’s seminal Diet for a Small Planet. Moore Lappe is still well respected, but she regrets eschewing the misnomer that one must eat beans and rice together because alone they do not make a complete protein. Moosewood Cookbookby Laurel Katzen would complete my trilogy a few years later.
I remained true to my word until one fateful night of San Francisco debauchery. The barbeque was in full swing. Fueled by a significant amount of alcohol and a couple hits of weed, the smell of the barbequed chicken was overpowering. I could not resist. I went home that night, curled up in a ball, and cried like someone had killed my dog. I then beat myself up for being a “foul eater of fowl” for the next few weeks. That night put me back on the path of the righteous. Until that other fateful day when I was riding down the multi-use path and taken out by an off duty cop in his Toyota Tacoma.
That was in 1997. I was racing my bike and training as if I was a pro. I was hit by said vehicle, thrown from my bike, sent to ER in an ambulance, and eventually went under the knife to repair my knee. A nurse friend suggested I might need a bit more animal protein. I took his advice, adding poultry to my diet, and I found that my body was healing more rapidly, especially simple wounds that in the past would have become infected and taken forever to heal. Since then I’ve rotated through almost every alternative-eating plan imaginable: vegetarian, vegan, pescaterian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pesco-pollo vegetarian (oxy-moronic for sure), but I have never returned to eating beef, pork, bison or buffalo, venison, alligator, rattlesnake, or any other red-type meats. These days, I like to think of myself as an “opportunist eater”. I eat healthy food, occasional augmented with chicken or seafood if my body seems to crave it. Since my Lyme diagnosis and the elimination of sugar, dairy, gluten, and alcohol from my diet, my “opportunities” have dwindled dramatically. I am just relieved that I’m still able to consume legumes!
But I’m here to show everyone that cooking up a pot of beans is cheap, healthy, and a whole lot easier than you ever imagined.
Bean Queen Bean Cooking Philosophy
Estimated Conventional Stovetop Bean Cooking Times
Type of Legume Cooking Time (minutes)
Yellow Lentils 30-45
Green Lentils 45-60
Split Peas – Green 45-60
Split Peas – Yellow 60-90
Navy Beans 60-90
White Kidney Beans (Cannelini) 60-90
Black-Eyed Peas 60-90
Black (Turtle) Beans 60-120
Great Northern Beans 60-120
Kidney Beans 60-120
Pinto Beans 60-120
Garbanzo Beans 90-180
- It is important to check your beans regularly
- These numbers are rough estimates, cook beans until they are soft
Frijol Flatulence Factor
Refer to cooking chart above, in general, the longer it takes a bean to cook, the fartier that bean will be
(click herefor a very important and informative primer on farting)
- Make sure your beans are fully cooked
- Acclimate – start with split peas (technically not beans) and lentils and work your way up to the truly musical fruits, black and pinto beans
- Baking soda – add a tablespoon with the first two cups of water
- Some herbs, added while cooking, can aid digestion and alleviate the flatulence factor, these include bay leaf, cumin, epazote, and savory
- Fart away, loud and proud – farting is healthy!
Soaking your beans
- I don’t recommend it. In my experience, soaked beans lose their beautiful, firm texture and the times I tried it, it did not significantly reduce cooking time. I really dislike mushy, overcooked beans
- I have heard that if you soak the beans overnight then rinse them thoroughly before cooking it reduces the flatulence factor. I can neither confirm nor deny this
- Just say no. Beans cook at dramatically different rates and bean medleys always result in combination of over-cooked mushy beans and undercooked pebble hard beans
- I don’t use stock. I believe it is unnecessary, the onions, garlic, and herbs create plenty of flavor
- Tomato paste – add once beans are fully cooked
- Sweet potato – add diced sweet potato with dried beans
Basic cooking instructions
- Sauté onions in oil over medium-low heat until translucent, 5-7 minutes
- Add garlic and peppers (optional), sauté 3-4 minutes
- Add mustard, honey (optional), and herbs, sauté until herbs release their scent
- Add rinsed beans, sauté 3-4 minutes
- Add enough water to cover beans, reduce heat to simmer, cook stirring frequently and adding water 1-2 cups at a time, as needed
- My beans are generally more like a stew than a soup so I add water as needed so I don’t end up with a big pot of watery beans
- Do not bring your beans to a boil, especially a hard boil, this expands the skin before the bean inside has a chance to expand and is kind of nasty
- All my recipes are vegetarian
- If you prefer vegan, omit the honey
Herbs and Spices
- The beauty of beans is that you can flavor them any way you like, every time I cook a pot of beans the herbs change
- Chile peppers – I love to add one fresh (jalapeño, serrano, habanero…), and one dried (chipotle, gaujillo, ancho, pasilla…) chile to almost every pot of beans I cook, it adds a wonderful depth and complexity and range from subtle to fiery depending on your chosen chile
- Bean soups and stews freeze beautifully, I always make extra and freeze them in serving size containers
Hippie Lentil Soup/Stew
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 cloves – 1 head garlic, thinly sliced
1 fresh chili pepper of your choice (optional), seeded, deveined and finely chopped
1 dried chili pepper of your choice (optional), seeded, deveined and finely chopped (kitchen shears work well)
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
1 tablespoon spicy/Dijon mustard
1 – 2 teaspoons dried thyme, 1-2 tablespoons fresh
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
6-8 cups water
3-4 cups of vegetables of your choice, chopped bite-sized
1 small can tomato paste
Salt & pepper to taste
- Fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
- Bottled hot sauce
Heat oil over medium-low heat, add onion and salt. Sauté onion until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and chili peppers, sauté another 4-5 minutes. Stir in honey and mustard, add spices and stir. Stir in beans and sauté for another couple minutes. Add enough water to cover the beans, turn heat to low, simmer with lid on but slightly askew. Stir occasionally and add water as beans expand. When beans are cooked through, about 45 minutes, add chopped vegetables, stir in, add more water if necessary and cook until vegetables are barely cooked. If the vegetables are barely cooked they won’t be mushy when you reheat the soup. Finally, stir in tomato paste, salt, and pepper to taste, serve with your favorite condiments.