January 29, 2011

Give Beans A Chance

If there were ever a time to channel your inner hippie, grab a big bag of beans and try some vegetarian cookery, now is the time.

Beans are one of the most nutritious and versatile foods known to the human race. They may also be the most misunderstood and maligned.

Most people in the meat-centric world know beans as the magical fruit that makes one toot, or they may associate beans with poverty. Either way, many steer clear of this healthy, frugal, and sustainable food source. The lowly bean just can't get no respect.

It must be some sort of meaty conspiracy with meat merchants planting misinformation that goes viral, eventually to become an urban myth that supports their fleshy agenda.

Take the case of a 'news report' of a man sleeping in a small, poorly ventilated room gassing himself to death with his own flatus. As the story goes, he ate a lot of beans and cabbage. However, researchers looking to dispel flatulent fallacies tossed this story in the methane myth bin.

It is true that as one increases the consumption of beans they may make you toot. This is due to components of beans interacting with your unique digestive system. However, after your body adjusts to the glories of the magic bean, the effect diminishes for fart-free fun with this most sensible of foods.

Beans vs. Meat

Meat production is one of the most environmentally damaging activities humans engage in. It consumes enormous amounts of energy and other resources, including rain forests being destroyed to make way for more livestock. Growing and killing meat animals accounts for more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector.
"It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of animal flesh. It's shockingly inefficient to feed plant foods to farmed animals and consume their flesh rather than eating the plant foods ourselves."

"The world's cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on Earth."
Western Diet Syndrome causes a wide range of ailments resulting from a diet heavy in meat, fat, and processed foods. This includes diabetes, stroke, heart attack, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel syndrome... and the list goes on. That alone is enough to drive a person to beans, farts or no farts.
"People should eat according to the dietary guidelines for Americans, which is a diet rich in plant foods. I don't oppose meat, but they should consume red and processed meat once or twice a week, not once or twice a day." - Dr. Steffen
With advice like that coming from the medical field, it is time to give meat a miss, and beans a break. Not only are beans healthy, but they store well, can be purchased in bulk, and often at a discount. And there is more - beans can be used to make very tasty dishes.

When cooking dry beans, planning ahead is of the essence. It is going to take about an hour on the stove top, and several hours in a slow cooker. Pick through your beans - they come straight from the fields, tiny rocks and chunks of dirt and all. After picking through, rinse. You can cover beans in water and soak over night if you want. This will reduce the cooking time and, some say, the farting fun. Drain when ready to cook.

Place rinsed beans in a pot and cover with water up till 2.5 cm (1 inch) above the top of the beans. Bring to a boil and boil hard for a minute or so, then turn to simmer. Cook until tender (should be soft enough to squish a bean between your tongue and the roof of your mouth). DO NOT throw out the liquid after. The boiling water is nutrient rich, and makes an outstanding gravy.

I will be posting some recipes for bean dishes in the coming weeks. Two of my favourites are bean gravy, which is so much better than it sounds, and mexican refried beans that I eat by the litre. Our refried beans taste better and are so much less expensive than any canned varieties we have tried.

The much maligned and ignored bean. If only John Lennon had favoured them rather than peas.

Give beans a chance.

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