Beans and legumes of all shapes and sizes, I could write volumes on you. How I love you when accusations of low protein fly my way and you stack up so politely next to steaks, chicken breasts and tuna. The way you flaunt high doses of fiber in the face of lesser foods. I love the way you look in the pot, be you stewed or whole, blended or blanched. I’ve seen you perched particularly ravishingly at the tip of a chip, and I’ve seen you in mixed company amongst chopped salads. In Asia, I found you in ice cream, and in the Middle East, in spreadable pastes. How many burgers in how many meals? I’ve long admired your role in chili, the ease with which ground chuck is made so forgettable. I love your variety, the collection of colors, textures and tastes. Beans and legumes of all shapes and sizes, I’m forever grateful for what you do.
What you give me comes in heavy doses. The weight of your protein in grams, by volume, screams into the grimace of RDA percentages, as if to say we will not be denied. How, in one cup, do you hold such flexed quantities of muscle fuel? When all of the world doubts, you deliver. And, with the same world still out of sorts, the omegas misaligned into horrible imbalance, you are there to put things right, with the healthier ratios of three to six. Why even your fat is the good kind of fat. As are your carbs, the clean combination of dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates, the sweet victory of low sugar — legumes, you’ve done it again, and again with significant sources of iron, magnesium, folate, manganese and phosphorus.
Beans, I could not count the ways, the dishes that delight, the means by which you weave yourself into every culture, every climate. How do you rest so comfortably encased in a tortilla, stuffed into a pita and steamed inside a dumpling? How can the same
bowl of chili feel so right outside at a hot summer’s day cookout and equally placed beside a fireplace on a frigid winter’s eve? How do you blend into butter (Yes, peanuts! That’s you), all the while hiding your identity? Why, you even supply my garden with nitrogen-rich nodules from which other plants can feed — a plant feeder as well!
A quick thank you to those legumes who participated in today’s event, and even those who didn’t. Soybeans, a shout out for bringing the most protein, complete with all the essential amino acids. Love to red beans for providing New Orleans-style red beans and rice — all of my life — as well as more fiber than the average bean. Urad Dahl, aka Black Gram, aka Mungo — not mung— bean, you are the alpha dog of Omega-3 (peanuts, not so good). Lentils, loads of likes for the loads of iron. Chickpea, aka garbanzo bean, I don’t know if you are actually a bean or a pea, but like the scarecrow to Dorothy, I think I’ll miss you most of all. Mad props to white, red, black and yellow. Bumps to broad, pinto, and the black-eyed peas. And, to all those other beans and peas out there, la familia de legume: Keep soakin’.
Lead image source: Enric Martinez/Wikimedia