Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Importance of Sharing

My friend Sarah speaks of this mythological grandmother that is capable of producing enough food for any number of people no matter the time or restraints of her larder. This is not legendary Greek figure of the harvest, but simply the long standing tradition of hospitality. In Tannahill's Food in History she spoke of the transformation that occurred in the twentieth century in hospitality. How people changed their perception that to take a person out for dinner was a reflection of you cooking skills and hospitality to the modern standard of treating someone to a restaurant was a gracious act. Today it is a show of financial security, but against us strapped the ability to feed our friends and guest is not just a gesture of kindness it allows us to relish in our own, even if small, bounty.

Siting in my pantry is a 25 lb bag of rice. It is an ever present reminder that no matter what happens I will not starve, I may come to resent the smell of a steaming bowl of rice, but it also means that whom ever may enter my house can be feed. When ever I cook dinner, which is normally a bowl of rice with onion, thyme, and jalapeno, with, ever other day or so, about seventy to eighty cents of pork, I always make sure to make enough for three. After taking my portion I leave the rest on the top of the stove, so that any who wish can take. Most nights this is packed away for the next few days, but their is always food for others.

On of the greatest struggles of poverty is not the lack of food, which can always be found, but the segregation from society. After bills and grocery this is nothing for social affairs that allow for meeting or entertaining. This keeps most of us restricted to the home outside of work, and the hope for company. The allure of food is our only hope to keep us social integrated. So here is my favorite recipe to feed lots of people, as well as the one dish that driven all of my culinary studies.

Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice is what it says, when I hear red beans and rice is offered I know that their no promises of sausage or unique spices. The list of ingredients is as follows red beans, onion, fat, salt, rice and water. Many people have tried to play up the dish with a long list of ingredient in attempt to cover the blandness of the rice and beans failing to understand that a well salted bean develops massive flavour and a real butteriness. The addition of a nice bit of smokey pork either on the bone or as sausage is not damaging, in fact helps, but is by no means necessary to the dish.

3lbs Red Beans
1 Onion, chopped

Sweet the onions in a large pot (the fat is based on what is available, olive oil adds a beautiful richness to the beans, but I always have raw lard in my house). Once the onions have become clear, but not brown, add the beans and enough water to come two to three inches above the bean. More water can be added later, and if you add to much you can cook it down later (it only helps add to the fullness of the liquor)

Once the beans are fully cook and tender salt the dish; adding a little at a time and stirring till the salt fully dissolves in the dish before adding more. The goal is for you to push what you believe to be the proper salt level. It should taste salty, as opposed to most dishes where the salt should bring out the flavor with out being salty. To understand the balance of flavor taste a piece of well salted butter on bread. Let the pot sit and blossoms while you cook your rice.

Rice is cook at a 2:1 ratio, that is two cups of water for every one cup of rice. Bring the water to a bowl, add rice, and cover. Once the water returns to a bowl you will reduce the heat, and the rice will be ready in twenty minutes.

To serve spoon rice in bowl or plate and cover with plenty of beans and the liquor. The liquor is the term for the gravy or liquid that the beans are in, this is also used to describe the vinegary liquid around braised greens.