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Oh beans! 

Jane Kansas espouses her love and appreciation for beans, beans, the magical fruit...

The more you eat, the more you toot. When I was a child, I spoke and ate as a child. My mother would slow cook baked beans with molasses and chunks of pork, and serve it up, steaming hot, in a turquoise enamelled casserole. My sister and I were uncomprehending. Why in the world would our mother go to all this trouble when the canned alternative, sweet and bland, were clearly superior? In tortured slow motion, we'd gum single beans until excused.

Now I'm grown and have put away childish things, when homemade baked beans and the canned version go into a room, nine times out of 10 the homemade beans emerge the victor. As autumn spins out evenings for favourite sweaters and cocoa, the menu planner in me turns to thoughts of chili or beans with toast. Beans are such a great money and nutrition deal.

Beans, beans, are good for the heart. They're high in protein and fibre, low in fat and cholesterol free. One cup of beans is about half of a daily fibre goal. They're digested slowly which is good for blood sugar control and appetite suppression. They're gluten free and high in iron.

Canned kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and more are in your local grocery store. Make chili, make hummus, throw them into canned soup. Put in a pot and add canned sauce. Graduate to cooking beans: lentils don't need to be soaked. Throw some into a soup, boil up and have on rice. The backs of bags of white pea beans have perfectly good recipes for baked beans.

The more you eat the more you fart. A bean fart is an honourable fart, plus there's pleasure in farting loud enough to scare the cat. Those paranoid about farting can ease their pain. Rinse beans well before and after cooking. Add a pinch of baking soda when soaking beans. Cook them thoroughly. And as your body gets used to more fibre, it'll stop tooting on its own. The more you fart, the better you feel.

Janet Plowman is a dietitian in Halifax and a bean fan. "They're a good source of protein and fibre and you can do anything with them. Put them in salads and soups, mix with pasta or mash up and have them on bread." Plus she says, they're easy. "Buy them dry or canned. If you're worried about sodium in canned beans, rinse them well."

Jim Wilson is the co-ordinator of the Mission Beans program. Every Friday in March and October, Mission Beans are sold at 16 United churches in Halifax (including St. Matthew's at the corner of Barrington and Spring Garden and St. Andrew's at the corner of Robie and Coburg) as a fundraiser to support the work of the Brunswick Street Mission. Wilson says beans for Saturday night supper is an old Maritime tradition. "We used to do it," he says. "Back in 1940 in Granton my Mum would put them in when I went to school on Friday and cook them all day and night."

In Jasper White's Cooking from New England, White says early colonists learned to cook beans from "American indians.' Because the Sabbath required adherents to refrain from labour, beans were cooked all day Saturday to be ready for Sunday. Somewhere along the way they began to be cooked earlier and eaten on Saturday.

Mission Beans are still available on October 26. For $8 you get a litre of beans (baked at the Westin Hotel) and a loaf of brown bread. Call a United church near you or Jim Wilson at 423-0425.


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