gross kidney beans

The merits of dried beans

I have often pondered on the mystery of the dried bean.

Because, apparently, soaking them for a period of time, then boiling them makes them digestible.

In my experience, however, this is not true (excepting lentils, but only the red kind). If I try to "keep it real" and use dried beans, as opposed to using much more expensive canned beans, a discomforting 'gassy' feeling is inevitably the result.

Now, Heather Havrilsky, the TV critic at salon.com, has helped me feel less of environmentally-unfriendly freak (at least in this regard).

In a recent column (warning, you may or may not have to stare at an ad for 10 seconds or so), she lays bare her own struggle with dried beans. I am not alone!

In part:

...Which brings us back to the bean aisle at my grocery store. This is my new therapy (since I can't afford the old kind): shopping for alarmingly cheap yet nutritious foods. It's relaxing, somehow, to stand there in front of those bags -- 33 cents for split peas! Amazing! -- fantasizing about how my family will eat only beans from now on: chilis and bean burritos (Homemade tortillas! Just flour and water!) and bean soups, whole meals that cost less than $3 to make, that might feed the family for days on end. As I escape into a hazy daydream of delicious gourmet bean concoctions, all of which are practically free, I suddenly become aware that I'm not alone.

There's a stout, pragmatic-looking woman standing next to me, fondling a bag of 15-bean soup mix. "This looks pretty tasty," she says somewhat suspiciously, half to herself and half to me. "Fifteen beans!" She breathes those words -- "Fifteen beans!" -- in the same tone most people would say "five-course meal!" or "three-week vacation!" And then she just stands there, fondling and sighing for a full minute, like she's gazing out at the Mediterranean, snacking on a delightful array of cured meats and aged cheeses.

"That does look pretty good," I say, sociably picking up the same bag. It feels good to talk to a stranger about beans. I'm not only buying beans, you see, I am discussing various bean-related options with other bean buyers...

You get the jist, I am sure. Comedy gold!

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