But during the first summer I worked in the kitchen at Chez Panisse, I fell in love with beans. Every Monday we received a shipment of vegetables from Chino Ranch, and it was my job to unpack it and put everything away. That summer, I saw true cranberry beans for the first time--as red and round as their namesake fruit--and peeled fresh giant lima beans we simmered and serve alongside braised pork. I was still in college, still planning to head to graduate school for poetry upon graduation, and I reveled in the names of the varietals--Dragon's Tongue, Painted Pony, Lina Sisco's Bird Egg, Coco Bianco and Coco Nero, Tiger's Eye, Snow Cap, and Jacob's Cattle.
And then, I tasted them. I'd never known a bean could be so satisfyingly creamy or so sweet. I was a goner.
I've loved beans ever since. The first article I pitched to a magazine was about shelling beans. They were the first seeds I planted when I started to garden. I buy beans at the market in every country I visit.
But what cemented my interest in beans as a cooking teacher, and why I want to dedicate this month to celebrating beans is this: a couple of years ago, I heard Mark Bittman say was that he'd consider his career a success if he could get every family in America to make rice and beans once a week. I couldn't agree more. Besides being beautiful and labeled with playful names, beans are accessible, cheap, nutritious and delicious. They are easy to cook, and lend themselves to a thousand different uses in the kitchen.
And since beans are for everyone, I'm declaring January #beanmonth. I'll be posting all sorts of links, recipes, resources, photos, poems, and more here, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I've started a board on Pinterest dedicated to BEANS, and I've invited friends all around the internet to join me. Wendy MacNaughton and I are even planning a very special giveaway at the end of the month.
Come, follow along! Share your own recipes, links and photos with the #beanmonth hashtag. I'd love to see everyone's favorite ways to cook and eat beans!
p.s. Lentils and chickpeas count!