I would sell my last cow for a handful of magical beans.
--Ian Caldwell, Author
Okay, tell me if I've got this wrong. We've got zillions of people from all over the world who, for zillions of years, have subsisted on grains, beans and rice. And some of those folks look pretty skinny and healthy and live a lot longer than we do here in the good old US of A.
But the Paleo folks are telling us to avoid beans completely and live on proteins, vegetables, and small amounts of fruit and nuts. The problem is, most of us--like the folks in third world countries living on beans and rice for thousands of years--can't afford all that grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, kiwi, asparagus and pine nuts.
Now, I like the Paleo diet and there are ways to do Paleo on the cheap, kind of, but it's really hard if you're a single mom with three kids to get full on Paleo without spending some serious money you don't have. I mean, me? I personally can make a meal out of a $4.99 bunch of asparagus (I make a awesome Hollandaise sauce and nearly raw pastured egg yolks and grass-fed butter really are good for you, I swear), but for $1.99, that single mom down the road can feed her whole family for a couple of days with a pot of beans. And she can thicken a deer stew with 'em too. (Those of you who read my last post know what I'm talking about).
Still, the research is clear: there's no doubt that beans and grains have anti-nutrients in them that are causing many of us to be sick. Of course, I think fast food, refined vegetable oils, sugar, white flour, GMO corn and all the chemicals in our food have alot more to do with why we're all sick, but grains--wheat especially--can be problematic.
Now, everybody in my family, including me, is gluten intolerant. So I'm with the Paleo folks. I think we can live without grains 98% of the time (except on rare occasions when you might take a road trip to the Big Apple to find that guy who sells sourdough that celiacs can eat).
But there are lots of advantages to beans and lentils, and I don't think we should be so quick to throw out the beans with the soaking water. The problem is not that we eat beans, the problem is that we don't prepare them properly the way our ancestors knew to do. There were traditional preparation methods that our ancestors used to ensure that the nutrients in beans and lentils were accessible and the anti-nutrients neutralized. I could go into a whole long discussion about phytic acid and galacoliosaccharides but you'd stop reading my blog. So I just summarize: beans have anti-nutrients and if you don't neutralize them, they really aren't that good for you. They may not kill you...right away. But they won't do you a whole lot of good either. So if it's that simple, why don't we just neutralize them. The problem is, it's not that simple.
Let's take me and my love of hummos for example. It's made of chickpeas (that's a bean). The companies that make hummos don't neutralize the anti-nutrients. It costs too much to do all that. That's how our world got into the trouble we're in. We like to buy cheap and the companies that sell for cheap don't care about what they're selling us. Now, none of the companies can compete if they care enough to do things the right way. It's just business, right? But just-business is killing us and killing our children. But that's another post.
Back to lovely hummos. It costs $4.99 to buy a little bitty flat container of the hummos I love and they can't even neutralize my anti-nutrients. So I decide I am going to neutralize my own anti-nutrients, right? I had some chickpeas in the pantry, so I soaked them for 24 hours and they doubled in size. Everybody knows how to do that. Did I stop there? No, those anti-nutrients were still in there; heck, I think I saw one of them waving at me. So I put those little buggers in a wide mouth mason jar and instead of putting the metal lid, I put cheesecloth so my chickpeas could breathe and come back to life and SPROUT a little tail. When the sprout appears, the anti-nutrients are almost all gone. It took three days to get that little sprout going. See the picture. Oh and that's a pita with falafel, veggies, tahini and tzatziki sauce next to the sprouting chickpeas. That falafel came from the first batch I sprouted.
Now, you could ferment the beans to get them all out, but... Let's just say I have dabbled with beet kvass, but I haven't gotten the art of fermentation down yet. I'm going to a class next month though and you'll read all about it. That's another post. Back to my hummos. I took those sprouted chickpeas, washed them, then I cooked them down, and they were ready to make hummos. Three days just to get the little tail and we haven't even started making the hummos. You see why I pay $4.99 to eat hummos with anti-nutrients? That's why everybody else does it too. Paleo folks say: to hell with it, stop eating the damned beans and go eat bacon.
Basically, we're lazy. I argue with myself alot on this topic. I'm not lazy, I tell myself, there are just things I prefer to do with my time. Bullshit. We're lazy and spoiled and we'd rather have fun than do yucky stuff. And boys and girls, if we can get away with that, NO PROBLEM. I'm there with ya. The problem is, when it comes to what we eat in this country, WE ARE NOT GETTING AWAY WITH IT. God forbid the Chinese invade our country. We can't fight. Most of us can't walk down our own front stairs without holding onto something. We're driving through that easy McDonald's drive-thru or pouring boiling water in a cup of ramen noodles or popping a tv dinner in the microwave. We are killing ourselves with our easy food choices--or as a little nun I know used to say, digging our graves with our spoons. Then we spend all our time on the internet researching what's the latest supplement that's going to cure us, the latest exercise that works, the latest guru who can tell us how to fix our broken bodies, our broken lives and our broken world. If we'd spent our time growing a garden, or going to the farmer's market, and coming home and cooking, as a family, making healthy, nutritious meals, we probably wouldn't need to be fixed. But if you're like me, I whined and never paid attention when my daddy wanted me to help him in his garden. All the things he could have taught me. He was born in 1918 and he survived the depression with my mother. I want to cry when I think about all that beautiful knowledge that died with them. In just a couple of generations, we've lost all knowledge of how to feed ourselves. And the companies that sold us our food in boxes, now their poisons are killing our bees, and pretty soon we won't be able to grow gardens even if we wanted to. At universities, they are researching how to grow food in buildings with artificial means. Imagine what those groceries are going to cost to buy when that near future arrives. And we won't have any alternatives by then. Unless we start changing things now. NOW.
Now, spending three days waiting for that chickpea tail to sprout isn't going to save the world and it really, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't amount to a hill of beans if I eat my homemade sprouted hummos or the storebought one if I'm just gonna go to Taco Bell the next day and kill some Meximelts. But I still feel good when my grandkids come over and I make a big pot of Cajun red beans and rice or chili or Pakistani dal with red lentils, and my beans are soaked and sprouted and bursting with nutrition. Cheap, yummy, filling and oh-so-good for us. I'm getting it down to a science, and it's not such a big deal once you get set up and get in the habit.
That's another thing I've learned: nothing is a big deal in life if you can just make it a habit.
But back to beans...I don't think we should give up on them. I think we should have community cooking nights where we get together and make big pots of things and each take some home. Instead of staying home, isolated, on Facebook or communicating through online videos and blogs. If any of you in the Lexington, Virginia region want to join me in doing something like that, I bet my church would let us use their kitchen. Just post a comment on this blog and we'll hook up and make soups with fermented beans. I'll bring the Gas-X. (No, seriously, sprouting and fermenting beans, well, it makes them a less musical fruit.)
In the meantime, if you want to sprout beans, ask any questions you like in the comments section. If you don't sprout your beans, eat them occasionally, but don't eat too many of them. Those anti-nutrients actually bind with the nutrients in your food and trap them so your body can't use them.
If you want to buy beans that are already sprouted, there is a cool little company in Floyd, Virginia, down the road, that sprouts then dehydrates beans so you can just cook them. In a week or so, I should have gone and picked up my five-pound bag of sprouted chickpeas, and I will make hummos and falafel and take lots of pictures. I'm going to leave you with a link for this company. They're one of those old-fashioned companies that still care about doing it right and they're local. There's a start. Shop local. Do the right thing. And support companies that do the right thing.
I'm preaching to myself primarily. Sermon over.
Click here to go to Blue Mountain Organics website and buy sprouted beans
I don't have time right now, but I have a split pea recipe that will knock your socks off. Check back on this post in a week or so, and I should have added it at the bottom of the post. You will love me forever once you taste my split pea soup.
AND SPLIT PEAS HAVE THE HIGHEST AMOUNT OF INSOLUBLE FIBER (maybe navy beans are higher) in the bean family, and they're pretty respectable in the soluble fiber department too.
I'm back! And I got back within the week or so I promised. Here is my beloved Split Pea Soup. I had originally posted it a couple years ago on Spark Recipes, and I needed to update it a bit based on things I've learned. Click the link below.