FROM “HOW TO LIVE WELL”


“Beans have always been associated, if not with poverty, certainly with the sweating classes. Fava beans, whose slightly bitter flavor is so refreshing it’s common to see them being peeled and eaten raw, were called, in ancient Rome, “faba,” a play on words with “faber,” the Latin word for “worker.” The Roman physician Galen said of beans: “Legumes are those grains of Demeter that are not used to make bread.” He then chose them over less wholesome wheat loaves as the staple of Roman gladiators’ diets.

Most of us regard beans with suspicion, as we do stale bread and cooking in water. Prejudices are always best dispatched, but not always unfounded. When food is boiled badly, it’s fair to turn away from it, and if stale bread isn’t cooked with, or toasted, but served dray and harsh, it’s awful. Beyond the indelible stain the poor little things will never shake, the distaste we feel for beans is not unfounded either.

The distaste we feel for beans, beyond the indelible stain poor little things will never shake, is half deserved. Our beans are rarely as good as they can be. They’re usually so bad, in fact, that basing your opinion of their merit on prior experience is very much like deciding you don’t like Bach after having heard the Goldberg Variations played on kazoo…”