Friday, August 25, 2006

Mexican cement

Everyone has favorite foods, and if they're like me, those change over the years. I recall being addicted to white bread-and-hard salami sandwiches in high school, so thick that the ounce-conscious me of today would have said, "um, you know, that meal represents at least two servings of meat. . . ."

When I was slightly younger, I remember eating about seven Oreoes and a glass of 2% milk on a near-daily after-school basis, and there are strong pre-adolescent memories of ice cream with Cool Whip and Hershey's syrup backgrounded by "She-Ra, Princess of Power" cartoons.

Television, tons of sugar - by America's trends, I should weigh about 250 pounds. Even though during my first year of college, I used to eat dinner, plus three bowls of cereal, plus ice cream over cake, plus sometimes a grilled cheese sandwich in the dining hall, by the grace of genetics, I am not fat.

Eventually, I'll go to the lab and get that cholesterol count done, but let's say that right now, my food of choice is "anything with tomatoes and especially hot peppers."

In other words, I love salsa, I love corn chip products* and recently, I've started in on the bean thing.

A friend of mine who is slightly older than I and thinner, used to amaze me several years ago with the fact that she would bring refried beans to work for lunch. She's not Latina, and neither am I. Back then, I really relegated such fare to "only when it comes slopped on the side of a plate of Mexican food, usually sprinkled with some white cheese and destined to make me gassy and angry later because I ate them after finishing the very-big-enough main dish already."

In the 80s, a babysitter used to make tostadas for us, but I think it's because it was a cheap way to feed four kids.

However, in recent times, I've found that a can of beans (which now come in non-lard varieties, fat-free or "vegetarian") can become quite satisfying for a munchaholic when mixed with fresh jalapeños and other vegetables. A little can costs about $1.29, however, and is only a few servings, especially if they are dished up as part of what goes in the beef, etc. tacos/burritos/whatever one is sharing with ones family of two.

So, imagine my happiness when one day at the Northeast Price Chopper, I saw a whole cart full of 10-pound bags of pinto beans, discounted to $2.

The "El Guapo" beans hung out in my car for a long time after that. Carrying ten pounds of beans up three flights of stairs is something that's very easy to procrastinate, when other perishables are calling out or after work every day when "I'm just too tired" and inevitably lugging other stuff.

Besides, I was hoping someone would notice. Also, I'm one of those people who justifies keeping random stuff in the car "in case of emergencies," and dry beans seem like something you could suck on during the apocalypse to keep you busy and semi-nourished.

For the record, the El Guapo pintos were produced in Iowa.

The directions for how to transform cute speckled beans into the pastey mash I came to know as the "frijolitas" served every morning with the tortillas and eggs when we stayed in Tangancícuaro a few holidays ago were printed in English and Spanish.

I can do this, I said to myself.

It's a simple process, and I've made other beans before. What takes the longest is waiting until you have three solid hours to devote to the task, since waiting for pintos to cook down takes, well, a couple of hours of stove-time.

A few Saturdays ago, I had time.

Since this post is so dragging on, I will summarize my observations:

1. waiting for beans to cook is boring. . .you can fall asleep and burn down the house, if you're not paying attention
2. even though the recipe didn't call for salt, you really have to add a lot, otherwise, well, refried beans taste just like they look, umm, like mud
3. mashing up beans "with a large spoon" after they're cooked requires the strength of an ox (and is where the third hour goes)
4. I need someone Mexican who can tell me how much salt/water/chili powder really goes in them
5. refried beans, when being prepared by a novice, have a tendancy to "get everywhere," leaving fun blobs of concrete-like starch product on walls, towels, cookware, etc. but unlike meat, are so easy to clean up it's charming
6. as you might guess, I still have a lot left

* (I really only like one kind of corn chip, Art's blue corn ones, which are perfectly pure and have probably one-hundreth the salt that, oh, say, a Tostito or even a Silva's does, so I hope the Gutierrez family never, ever stops making them.)

1 comment:

Susan said...

I completely forgot to comment on this way back when - homemade frijoles are way hard!! yay you for even thinking of it let alone to such success! Even in Tucson (we liked to think of ourselves as SOOOOOO Mex there!) no one ever makes refrieds from scratch. Well no one ever does it twice... :)