My wife and I are beanophiles, pure and simple. And could there be a food more pure and simple?
Time was, I bought navy beans at Kroger, plastic sacks of old dry beans grown who knows where and who knows how long ago. I soaked them, and they woke up from their long sleep, and we made beautiful music together (that is probably not the expression I should use). They were very okay.
At the edge of our driveway, next to the rosemary bush in our herb garden, is a flat rock, suitable for sitting on. We call it Aunt Fran’s rock, named for a dear soul who used to perch on it when she looked after our three-year-old son.
I was sitting on that rock a few days ago when our six-year-old grandson started showing off his hoverboard. It’s essentially an axle you stand on, powered by an electric motor with a rechargeable battery. Next to each wheel is a flat pad where you position your feet. A couple green lights blink when the device powers up. It emits a series of friendly, robot-y beeps.
JFK was assassinated on a Friday. The World Trade Center was destroyed on a Tuesday.
Coronavirus is every day.
In 1963 I was in the 6th grade. My teacher was Mrs. Kauffman, a sturdy older woman I remember as humorless and purposeful. That fall I had a crush on Mary Pat Frost. On WKNX, the local AM radio station, the Beatles’ “She Loves You” played on 45 minute intervals. The British invasion was well underway. In those days schools were still rehearsing emergency procedures, for tornado and for the A-bomb. I recall taking my place in the hallway, along with every student from every class lined up single file, tight against an inner wall, hands clasped over our heads, our bodies sinking to the floor like so many deflated balls.
In a saucy Washington Post opinion piece on February 24, 2012, columnist Alexandra Petri made fun of Mitt Romney. Campaigning for the Republican nomination, he was visiting Michigan, a state he’s sort of from (his father was the State’s governor from 1963 to 1969). In a speech he expressed his affection for Michigan by noting that “all the trees are the right height.” Petri let him have it, noting that his comment “bears a resemblance to what on TV sitcoms is called chuffa — something that sounds sort of funny but isn’t an actual joke.” Romney’s attempts at humor she describes as “verbal clockwork oranges.”
In the kitchen I originate very little. Modify, yes; originate, no.
I’m okay with that.
I was gratified recently when I watched “Funke,” a documentary film about Evan Funke, the American chef whose LA restaurant Felix attempts to serve the best pasta in the United States. Not just good pasta. The best. (Felix menu shown above.) What struck me were Funke’s remarks early in the film about the casalinghe tradition in Italy.
One Sunday afternoon in March of 1976, I ran into Dave. I was in a beer store in Durham, North Carolina, standing at the cash register, pocketing the change from my purchase, when this guy stepped up to the counter beside me. He looked familiar.
“Are you Dave?” I said.
He gave me a wary look, like maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t.
“Dave from Ireland?”
His face lit up. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m Dave from Ireland. Hey!”
We’re setting the table for lunch at her house. I’ve brought a pot of ragu and tagliatelle, which we’ll eat with a generous dusting of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. If I were on death row, this would be my last supper request.
Her husband, I gather, is in a training, thinning, low-carb phase just now. She sets down a medium-size salad bowl where his pasta should be. It’s not a salad. He gets cannellini beans and tuna, with chopped celery, parsley and scallions, a couple drops of vinegar, and olive oil, a lot of it.
“Your Bruce Jenner shirt,” my wife says, “is on the ironing board downstairs.”
It’s a Thursday morning in Coronavirus time. We’re having coffee in the kitchen. Later today I’ll go to the grocery store, an outing that used to occur daily. Now I go once a week, if that. For these trips, along with gloves and mask, I wear clothing I don’t care about, shirt and pants that might accidentally rub up against virus and will need to be washed right away. I’ll have to strip to my shorts in the garage before my wife lets me back in the house.
“Look at those fatties,” I say, pointing to the goldfinches perched outside the kitchen window. “They’ve emptied the feeder again.”