Actor Rowan Atkinson was born on this day (January 6) in 1955 and even though I found no direct correlation between this and the fact that it is also National Bean Day, I think it must have a connection. How could it not? Rowan Atkinson is most well-known for his bumbling man-child character known as Mr. Bean (or if you are not up on your English comedians, you may also know him from being the man who wraps up the locket in the flashiest of flashes at the department store for Alan Rickman in the movie Love Actually). Mr. Bean was tremendously popular in the UK and it would make sense that there would be a day to honor him, although I could not find any info that linked him to this particular holiday.
Some say that National Bean Day was created to commemorate the death of the geneticist Gregor Mendel, whose experiments with breeding pea plants formed the basis of modern genetics. Sure that’s worth celebrating, but I’m not sure why he would be connected to beans. He worked with peas however which are in the same family as beans, but still a different plant altogether. That just didn’t make sense to me. Others say that Bean Day was created by someone named Paula Bowen who felt like January needed more things to celebrate (it does) and whose father was a pinto bean farmer. So she created Bean Day to honor her father’s work, to indulge her love of beans and to get her frijole fiesta on during the bleak days of winter. Maybe Paula should have joined a bowling league or something because I don’t think Bean day took off in the way she wanted it to.
Whatever the reason, today was bean day and I was game for celebration. I thought about having a Mr. Bean marathon which would have given me some hardy laughs, but it just didn’t feel like I was celebrating the true star of the day which was the bean. Our bean consumption at our house usually comes in a few different forms. We always add in three kinds of beans when we make a pot of chili (apologies to Texas chili makers). It gives the chili a better texture so you are not just eating a bowl of meat. We also always bust out the refried beans on taco night (the kind from the can) and that always adds a little extra to the party. In fact, to the experienced taco maker, you can use refried beans to spread in between a hard shell taco and a soft shell to bond them together giving yourself the best of both worlds in taco shells and so that the hard shell does not crumble away. We also always get beans in our burritos. That’s part of the modern day burrito experience that Chipotle has trained us all on – black beans or pinto. Other than the occasional recipe that calls for beans, that’s our usual bean experience.
I decided to make beans and rice to celebrate today. I know that’s not too different from our usual burrito bean experience, but it is actually a pretty tasty meal and a fixture in some cultures. I found a recipe online from the folks at RealSimple.com which was for Cuban Black Beans and Rice. I had picked up my supplies at the store yesterday, so it was all pretty easy. It was fast too. For some reason I thought that beans and rice were one of those things that you spend all day cooking, but this took about twenty minutes. It called for two cans of black beans which I cooked with diced onions, garlic and green peppers. For spices, it pretty much called for cumin (one of our favorite spices), oregano, salt and pepper. The only other odd ingredient was a little bit of red wine vinegar. It was that easy which made me think this wasn’t an authentic Cuban recipe, one that Abuela would spend all day simmering on her stove with bits of ham hocks and the such. Nonetheless, it cooked fast, smelled great and made for a great meal. I served it in a bowl over white rice and topped it with loads of fresh cilantro.
Fresh and easy. Meals like this (simple with fresh herbs and lots of flavor) are Lola’s favorite and she really enjoyed it. Beans are really kind of versatile and soak up whatever flavors are around it. A good source of protein too. This was a pretty delightful meal, especially on a Friday Night after a long week. It warmed and filled our bellies which is what you want from any meal. Lots of leftovers too, so there will be more in our future.
Did you know that Rowan Atkinson has a masters degree in electrical engineering from Oxford? That’s one smart little bean. Maybe he deserves to be celebrated a bit more and have his own day as well. Nonetheless, beans deserve this day of tribute all to themselves. We should toast to their practicality, to their abundance and to their versatility. Beans are part of diets all through the world and have sustained humans for years. They are magical, just ask Jack, and should be commemorated for the place they deserve at every table. That’s what we tried to do today and the result was delicious. We should have more celebrations like that.
Next up: National Tempura Day