Last week I swung by the grocery store to pick up a few items. As I was selecting primo flat beans from an Everest scale pile I noticed the leather faced Italian man beside me mowing back fava beans freshly plucked from the pods. He was making a disapproving clucking sound while leering at my bag of beans. “You donna’ wan those” he said. “You-a buy-a these.” I was handed a bean fresh from the pod. I chewed, my new BFF nodded in affirmation – the bean was freakin’ good.
With an unspoken understanding between us, we started to fill a bag of pre-historic sized fava pods together. Through a series of pointing, squeezing, nods, disapproving grunts and smiles I learned how identify the best beans.
Here’s what he taught me:
- Bean pods with big brown spots are bad. “Meh.”
- Mushy spots are bad. “Meh.”
- Choose pods that are tender to the touch in between each of the beans. Smile and nod.
As we were picking and tossing the beans into my bag his wife showed up; her buggy filled to the brim with artichokes. Without missing a beat, she knows her husband has taken the daft, pale-faced, pudgy mangicake under his wing and is showing her the BEST thing to buy in the produce aisle. She asks me – “You know how to cook?” Of course, I say no.
Here’s what she told me:
- Wash the pod.
- Shell the beans.
- Cook the onion in good olive oil.
- Add the San Marzano tomato.
- Salt, pepper, garlic, spices you like.
- Add the beans.
- Cook low for hour.
- Cook the good pasta.
- Strain the pasta but save a bit of the good pasta water.
- Mix the pasta and the bean mix.
- Add a bit of the good pasta water.
- Salt, pepper.
- Add a bit of the good cheese.
- Eat it. It’s good.
- And it was.
The lesson from this food adventure: Simple food is good food and it can come to you in many ways. You only need to have an open mind and be willing to let people into your life so you can learn.
Before I left my temporary adoptive parents, they also gave me an artichoke tutorial. I’ll save that story for another day.
Anita Marie @OrganicExpert
P.S. I bought the flat beans anyway cause I love em. I think he was okay with that because we smile at each other warmly as we parted.