good mother stallard beans with fried lavender leaves

All right: it’s half past midnight, I’m listening to Sly and the Family Stone at full blast, I am seriously considering making some popcorn, and JM is asking me if I’m tired. No, no. Certainly not. Tired at a reasonable hour is so…April. And what is this, August? Who sleeps in August? August is all about realizing how horrifically you squandered a perfectly good summer, and then staying up all night worrying about it.

But really, I have no idea why I’ve been so wired lately. I stopped drinking coffee in something like June, started writing like a crazy person in July, and even stopped biting my nails a few weeks ago. I live the life of a Totally Normal, Easygoing Person with Excellent Coping Skills. What gives? I keep JM awake at night, discussing possible theories. Is it because mercury is in retrograde? Is it hormonal? Is it the beginning of a new life stage? Is it my ch’i? Do I even have ch’i? Maybe I need to pay someone to confirm that I in fact have ch’i, and then we can go from there?

JM usually agrees with all these theories. His agreement sounds like well-intended, sleepy grunting. JM is the best.

I have to admit, though, I’ve been more scattered than usual lately. It feels like a strange combination of minutes crawling by like hours, and days flying by like years. I find myself performing tasks that I swear I was performing in exactly the same way five years ago, having trouble distinguishing between past experiences and dreams I had last week, and getting the distinct feeling that a stranger has hijacked my to-do list — because, seriously, what is all this stuff and why is it so important? And now that I’ve finally asked all these questions, and really meant them, do I win some kind of philosophical award? I want Kierkegaard’s ghost to smack me on the back of the head with a trophy that says: FIRST PRIZE WINNER ANGST-CAPADES 2011!

What I like about my own version of angst is that I usually spend a few hours being morose, an hour being numb, and then something like a week being hyperactive and trying new things. So, like, on Friday I decided I wanted to do Shabbat and wrote out cheat-sheets for all the blessings, even though I have never hosted Shabbat in my life. And last night I downloaded a scriptwriting program and immediately began typing things like INT. WOMAN’S CAR. DAY. with absolutely no idea where I was going with it. And then today, I made beans.

Beans are those things that you either get as a side dish when you go out to dinner or just keep in cans in the cupboard in case the world ends. They’re good, but they usually fall into that lentil category of foods that are simultaneously amazing and totally boring. However, armed with angst-ridden mania and an unopened bag of Rancho Gordo’s Good Mother Stallard Heirloom Beans, I decided to risk the potential of boring in the hopes of achieving accidentally awesome. And I’m glad I did.

Pot o’ Good Mother Stallard Beans

-1-lb. bag of dried beans
-1-2 tbs salt
-1/4 cup olive oil
-10-15 lavender leaves

Rinse the beans a few times, picking out any debris. Now put them in a medium-sized pot (one with a lid), cover them with water (there should be about an inch of it above the surface of the beans), and put the heat on medium-high. When the water reaches a rolling boil, turn the heat down to low, stir in some salt, and simmer with the lid on FOREVER.

Okay, that’s not exactly how it went down. What actually happened is that I let the beans simmer for about 20 minutes, checked the water level, topped it off with boiling water from the kettle (it should always hover about an inch above the beans) — and then, after about an hour had passed, I tasted one of the beans to see if there was enough salt in the mix. I like my beans good ‘n’ salty, so I added more, but it’s ultimately a taste thing.

When the beans are getting close to done — in my case, this took a little over two hours — put the oil in a small pan and heat it over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, toss in the lavender leaves. They will curl up immediately, at which point you can fish them out with a fork and drain them on a paper towel. I should also add that you might want a splatter guard for this, since the oil tends to pop. Wait until the oil cools a bit before adding a dollop of it to the finished beans.

That’s it. Really! That’s all you need. If you want to be all fancy, you can add stuff like garlic and mirepoix and serve it all with a big, healthy salad and some tacos or something, but JM and I kept it simple tonight. An August evening. A pot of beans. Some lavender to make it interesting. And angst.


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