Sunday, July 14, 2002


Beans are for breakfast. And lunch. A bowl of pintos, hot and seasoned with garlic, salt and black pepper, sitting in their own broth, and sprinkled with queso seco, is good. A toasted, fresh tortilla makes the beans better. Good beans are good any time.

A clean home, with Pine Sol scrubbed floors, and rain pouring outside, is inviting. A home with a pot of beans, simmering, and steaming the window, while rain spatters the porch and cleans the garden, is nurturing and good. When someone is there, in the clean home and waiting to love you, then the world is a safe place. The curtains are pushed aside, so the water streaming down the windows and the trees dripping on the grass can be appreciated.

Sort the beans. Each handful of beans may include small stones, sand or seeds, or a moth deceased and dusty. Keep the smooth, hard, plump pinto beans and discard the rest. Rinse the beans. Pour water over the beans and swirl them, and move your hands through them. They are little bumps, beads. Throw out the clouded water. Repeat.

In your best pot, the heavy one, put your beans and cover them with water, and let them simmer, simmer, soften and simmer. Watch the steam, the condensation, the gentle bubbles, the beans rolling. Add water. Keep the beans dancing and rolling.

Mop the floor with hot water and Pine Sol. Clear the table, and make the beds. Change the litter box. Bring in flowers from the garden. Put on music; Tino Rossi, Libertad Lamarque, Nat King Cole. Open all the curtains and wait for the rain.

Chop a white onion, water streaming from the faucet, keeping tears at bay. And garlic. Crush the garlic between your fingers. Absorb the garlic. Prepare a lot of garlic, and maybe a little chile, a green pepper. Heat olive oil, and saute the onions. Breath deeply, then add the garlic and peppers. Be barefooted and dance, while you cook. Dance on the clean floors. Add the peppers, onions and garlic to the pot of bubbling, soft beans.

Salt, black pepper, a few oregano leaves, very few, rubbed between your palms, sprinkled in to the pot of beans. Taste and season. Wait. Repeat. More salt. Or fresh cilantro, or crushed red pepper seeds or nothing.

Remember the beans you've had before. Remember the cooks who have loved you before. And listen to the rain, and remember the people who waited to love you, when you were a child, coming home in the rain, to a home that was clean, and a bowl full of beans, sprinkled with cheese and served with a tortilla.

Prepare with love. Serve hot.


kimsherrod said...

what a wonderful, comforting story. Sitting at the table with the brightly colored oilcloth. waiting for my bowl of beans. spoon in hand. knees on chair. swaying to the music. stealing from the dish of grated cheese. I picture maria and the boys. I picture you at your Mama's table. Then I turn around and see me at my Grandmother's table. Happily anticipating the beans with chow-chow made that summer from the cucumbers and cabbage she grew in the garden that I helped hoe. Thank you for the beans. Thank you for the escape that I find each time I come to visit here. Thanks for adding a pinch of love and a sprinkle of joy

Janece said...

Thank you Natalie for this recipe. I'm going to try it today. Amira LOVES beans -- and I haven't had a good recipe up till now. THANKS. :)