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Needed: a new kind of cookbook


A while back, Syracusan in Seattle and I had a conversation about beans.  I can’t remember now if we talked on Facebook, Twitter, or in blog comments, but I remember talking about beans.

Syracusan is a vegan. I don’t think I’m ever going to be a vegan, but I do want to eat more legumes. So there’s no better bean-teacher than a vegan, right?

I buy beans. I bring them home from the store. I empty them into quart jars. I label the jars. I stow the jars in my pantry.

And then I don’t cook them.

This is what has me thinking about the need for a different kind of cookbook. We need a cookbook that teaches habits, not recipes.

A cookbook that says things like, “Well, if you want to cook beans, you put a bunch of them in your Crockpot with some water, and eight hours later you’ve got great beans. Stow the cooked beans in the fridge, and add them to things throughout the week.”  (Don’t follow those instructions––I don’t know beans about beans.)

I know the steel-cut oats habit.  I know the yogurt habit.  I’m working on the “get something out of the freezer” habit.  I’d like to know the bean habit.  I’d like to know the more-than-one-veggie-per-meal habit.

Any takers?  Anyone willing to write that kind of cookbook?  Or at least that kind of blog?


9 thoughts on “Needed: a new kind of cookbook

  1. you need Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.

  2. We’re big bean eaters here. Well, we’re smaller folks who eat a bunch of beans, anyway. I, too, have many a dried bean on my pantry shelf, untouched. We rely mostly on canned beans, honestly. It’s not the full bean habit, but it’s partway. As for the more-than-one veggie-per-meal habit, that’s easier when you eat more beans. Most of my bean recipies contain plenty of veggies. Also, we’re generally of the ilk to serve one veggie cooked and one raw at a meal. Unless mom has the lazies.

    Fall/winter is a great time to explore the world of bean cooking. You’ve inspired me.

  3. I recommend any of John Thorne’s books. I started with Simple Cooking. He has a website and a newsletter: You might also get something out of Ratio by Michael Ruhlman

    As for the beans, I have the best luck with canned as well. Beans in the crockpot are easy and cheap, but too much for someone living alone. I could freeze them, but that’s much less convenient than a can of beans. With canned beans it’s easy to use two or more kinds of beans together. Last night, for instance, I made a bean salad for dinner with black beans and garbanzos, a carrot, several celery stalks, olive oil, cider vinegar, a splash of lemon juice (I buy a large bottle, like I do with vinegar), and some spices. It needed onion, but I didn’t have one. I used some vinegar/garlic paste from a jar. I didn’t use a recipe.

    Here are some of the food/foodie blogs I follow for ideas and inspiration:
    and look! a post about beans:

  4. You folks are wonderful! What a great bunch of bean-eaters!

    I’ve been trying to stay away from canned goods because of the BPA issue–hard to know which things to be paranoid about, right? Maybe beans with BPA are better than no beans at all? Things to think about.

    Thanks, Kenneth, for the wonderful foodie links. I’ve got many, many foodie blogs in my Reader, but these are new to me. It’s always fun to find new ones!

  5. A few more thoughts. The Wrightfood blog Kenneth linked to above has a tab called “techniques.” Yes. Techniques are part of what I’m trying to say in this post. Techniques, habits, Ruhlman’s ratios. All basic things around which I can improvise, not rigid recipes that require ingredients that I may or may not have.

    I have Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian on my iPod, and I like what he says in that about “repurposing” (what chefs do with leftovers). I like the idea of making enough of something that I can then use in different ways over the next few days.

  6. Yes, those pesky habits! I’m trying to be better about meal planning so that we DO get more veggies in our diets, and it’s so much more about focus and habit and simply remembering to think about it than it is about any particular food or ingredient. I keep trying…

  7. Pingback: Decaf blogger | Nagoonberry

  8. I don’t know how I didn’t see this until now. But I’m glad to hear you figured it out 😀 … and you just reminded me that I need to go soak some 🙂

    • Our nutritionist recommended cooking them with kombu, a kind of seaweed. Sounds strange, I know. Apparently there’s an enzyme in the seaweed that helps cook the beans and makes them more digestible. Also gives them some minerals, and a bit of salt.

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