Friday, February 22, 2013

Beans and onions

Eastside Road, February 22, 2013—
PYTHAGORAS, AND BEANS, and all that*: but that's not what interests me just now.

What I"m interested in, is the onions. Lindsey cooks red beans; with a minced chopped jalapeño and some crushed garlic flavoring it; and sets out bowls of chopped cilantro leaves, raw onion, and chopped avocado, along with a quartered lime. We scatter these items on top of the hot beans, squeezing some lime juice over.

For years I was unable to eat raw onion. Even scallions gave me trouble; chopped raw yellow or white or red onions, like those on these beans, would have been virtually impossible. I took this as a matter of course: not that hard to abstain from something you always find physically unpleasant. Raw onions made me physically uncomfortable, in a number of ways I don't think it necessary to describe here.

Then, in my middle fifties, I was offered early retirement from the job I'd had for fifteen years — a job I had begun to find increasingly irritating. Not long after retiring I discovered an amazing thing: raw onions no longer bothered me. I could eat an entire onion raw, if I chose, like a Roman legionnaire. It didn't bother me in the least. In fact, it was delicious.

It still is. Of course the raw onion cooks, just a little, when it's scattered atop (and then sinks into) beans hot from the stove. The secret of Lindsey's garnish is that all these items cook just a bit when they're scattered on the beans. But there's always a little left in the bowls after we've finished our first course, and I simply add them to the salad dressing I've whisked up, and Lindsey tosses them with the torn lettuce. Now they're definitely raw; lettuce isn't going to cook anything, not even when dressed with good Eastside Zinfandel vinegar. And it's only good.
Cheap Nero d'Avola


*Wikipedia: The Pythagorean code further restricted the diet of its followers, prohibiting the consumption or even touching of any sort of bean. It is probable that this is due to their belief in the soul, and the fact that beans obviously showed the potential for life. Some, for example Cicero, say perhaps the flatulence beans cause, perhaps as protection from potential favism, perhaps because they resemble the genitalia, but most likely for magico-religious reasons, such as the belief that beans and human beings were created from the same material. Most stories of Pythagoras' murder revolve around his aversion to beans. According to legend, enemies of the Pythagoreans set fire to Pythagoras' house, sending the elderly man running toward a bean field, where he halted, declaring that he would rather die than enter the field – whereupon his pursuers slit his throat.

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