Growing up, my mom cooked up beans pretty often. I don’t mean to add to the stereotype; she was and is a Mexican-born woman doing what Mexican-born women do – they feed their family. Aside from being culturally rich, beans are affordable, nutritious and readily available.
I’d argue they also go great with just about any dish. I’d also argue my mom’s to be the best, but know full well how disputed that claim would be – everyone claims their mother or grandmother “Queen of Cuisine.”
When the pot of beans was done, my mom would dip a small cup in the pot and fill it with the juices. She would walk this steaming, brown juice to me and say,
“Andale, tomatelo todo. Es pura vitamina.”
Drink it all down. It’s pure vitamins.
Too hot to drink, I’d blow across the top like one does with tea before bringing the cup to my lips. With my first gulp, the thick liquid coated my throat and I felt it run down to my belly, warming my whole body.
Although when I watched my mother in the kitchen it may have seemed loose and slap-dashed, the process of cooking beans is very ritualized.
So many things can go wrong. The beans may not be properly cleaned. The water may not be hot enough before adding the beans. The flame may be too high. The beans may dry out. The salt may not take. There may be too much garlic. The beans may boil over. And so, the whole process becomes a game of patience. My mother waits.
There is a specific time to add the garlic, the onion, the salt. She changes the size of the cooking flame, she covers and uncovers the top. Although as a child it seemed to me that she left the beans unattended, she really was only giving them time. She knew the beans and she knew her pot. The process of cooking beans is ritualized.
Two to three hours later, and an overlooked amount of challenges overcome, our family had a pot of hot beans in delicious juices. More often than not, a batch of warm tortillas and maybe some muenster cheese was waiting too.
I never realized this until I tried it for myself. Since then, I’ve had success and failures. I’ve relished full belies and I’ve ruined good pots.
When deciding on the name The Bean Juice Dispatches, I had my mother in mind. I kept in mind that life, like cooking, is riddled with challenges one would never suspect unless experience firsthand. I kept in mind that the vitamins in life are sometimes in the unexpected places; In the juice, so to say.
Most importantly, I kept in mind that everyone cooks their beans differently. My beans will never taste quite like my mom’s just like hers don’t taste quite like my grandma’s. I know with enough experience though, I might have a young’un down the line writing about my beans too.
Our focus for this publication is to bring you not just the beans but the juice too, thick and steamy to warm your belly. We aim to bring you life’s smaller stories and the people that live them. We want the voices that make up our towns and cities heard. We want the shopkeepers, the farm workers, the wanderers. We want the young parents with bills to pay, the retiring professors with a passion for earrings, the aspiring musicians. We want to give you stories of life you can enjoy and perhaps a new perspective to go along with it.
We want to give you the Bean Juice Dispatches.