When I was married I prepared about 95% of the meals. Cooking is something I enjoy. There is something about the looks of satisfaction and the words of praise that appeal to the instant gratification side of my ego. And I got lots of praise. There were times when my ego would get to the point it wanted to take on Top Chef and show those clowns how to really make mac and cheese. We won’t mention the rule we had around the house that was proudly displayed over the stove: Anyone who fails to praise the meal, cooks the next three. Did I mention all the praise I got?
I’m not one of those typical single guys who makes everything in the microwave. I have a stove and know how to use it. Honest! My made from scratch chicken and dumplins has been glorified by all who have tried it. The spaghetti sauce in my kitchen does not come from Prego, Ragu or Hunts. It has real ingredients. My pancakes are made from flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and love. I still get lots of praise for my cooking. (I got the sign over the stove in the divorce.)
This leads me to the experiment. While spinning the lazy-susan in my kitchen, it jammed up. It would not spin forward or backward. For those of you who don’t know, a lazy-susan is a corner cabinet that has a couple of spinning shelves that allow you to use and actually reach the stuff in the back of that corner cabinet. When something gets underneath it, jams occur and you have to reach up and under and around – any way you can – to get it un-jammed. While performing some of the basic movements of advanced contortionism, I was able to discover the jamming culprit. It was a bag of dried back beans I had bought a few months back and totally forgotten about. The main reason I forgot about them had something to do with them being under the spinning shelf. Instead of putting them back in the lazy-susan to fall back down and jam things up, I placed them on the counter.
For a couple days, they just sat there. They were looking at me with a smug look that said, “I made it this long. You don’t have the balls to make anything with me. It’s not chili season. Muahahahahahaha!” Beans with that kind of attitude are not tolerated around my house. The moment they started acting like that, I got out the colander and rinsed those bad boys off. “Now who’s laughing?!” I declared to a bunch of beans. Yeah, I cook like that. Placing the rinsed beans in the big stock pot, I began to add water… and stopped. I seemed to remember a movie about campfire beans that had whiskey in them. As I looked in the liquor cabinet, a smile crept across my face. Even though I couldn’t remember the movie, I did remember it was bourbon. I had some! It was promptly added to the soaking mix.
Did you know that letting beans soak in water and whiskey makes going into the kitchen a buzz-worthy experience? I found myself checking on the beans frequently. My son caught me with my head all the way in the pot, sniffing the delicate bouquet of black beans and bourbon. I explained that I was checking the beans for sobriety. He just shook his head as he walked away, saying something about beans singing How Dry I Am. I listened carefully and he was right. That boy has better hearing than I do.
After twenty-four hours of vigilant soaking (I checked them every fifteen minutes), the beans were ready to cook. Draining the black bean-infused soaking solution down the drain (my tears also followed the whiskey), I began to fill the pan with more water… and paused again. When I make my praise-worthy chili (remember the sign), I use a beer or two. Porter beer is the best for chili, but almost any beer will do. I got a couple cans of light beer and added them to the beans. Also I tossed in garlic, an onion, and just about every spice I have in the spice rack. It was going to be great!
After three hours of my kitchen smelling like a brewery, the beans were tender and ready to taste. They were AMAZING! Flavorful and balanced. Delicious and nutritious. Healthy and full o
f fiber. I had two large bowls. Since I was not expecting anyone to stop by, there was no concern about the amount of methane that would be produced. There is a scene in Blazing Saddles where a bunch of cowboys are sitting around a fire, eating beans and farting. I could have been an extra on that set. But I didn’t care. The beans were so good, I had some for a snack later.
The next morning was a different story. Do you remember me mentioning that they were healthy and full of fiber? About that fiber… it works. While contemplating the pros and cons of a black bean omelet, I felt a certain fullness in my lower abdominal area. OMG! My system emptied everything that was in my large and small intestines. I feel fairly certain that I passed things my mom ate while pregnant with me forty-some years ago. Sadly, I know how my dad felt that time he ate several helping of kidney bean salad. I laughed at him for days after. It’s not near as funny when you’re on the other end and it’s your other end doing the work.