Feeling grateful today for the simple things, like rice and beans.
I was chowing down on some earlier this evening, leftovers from Tuesday when I cooked a large pot of it. Not joking, this was probably the 150th time I’ve done this in the past few years. Due to budget constraints, I have eaten this meal on many occasions and am amazed at how I have not gotten tired of it, though that might be because I have learned to season this entree (a little cumin and a pinch of salt do wonders), and my budget has not been so tight that I could not afford to eat a little steamed broccoli, spinach, or kale alongside it.
I don’t have the source handy, but I have heard it estimated that around half the world’s population eats rice and beans just about every day. On the days they don’t eat rice and beans they eat beans and rice.
With this dish you have your staples, a complete protein and complex carbohydrate; to wit, you have sustenance. You might call this the cuisine of the poor. But unlike here in USA, fresh vegetables are often scarce (and therefore pricey) in the underdeveloped and developing world. A friend of mine who lived for a year teaching English in rural Guatemala told the me the first thing he wanted when he came home to the United States was a crunchy, leafy salad. Never had he ever craved raw green foods so much as when he was forced to go without them for so long.
Although I currently live near Washington, DC in one of the most affluent counties of the United States, I have spent a few seasons during my twenties living among the poor in rough neighborhoods in both my home state of Virginia and in other states. There’s nothing romantic about life on a tight budget, but when you can cultivate community with your neighbors over food, even simple food like rice and beans, it is precious. Rice and beans is hearty, inexpensive, and palatable to even the more finicky of eaters among us. Amusing to me are the names the nations have given this dish.
- Puerto Rico: Arroz con gandules (Rice with pigeon peas)
- Spain, Cuba: Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians)
- Nicaragua, Costa Rica: Gallo Pinto (Painted Rooster)
- Southern USA: Hoppin’ John
In Jackie Pullinger’s (one of my heroes) book Chasing the Dragon, she describes working with the poorest of the poor in the (now former) Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, many of whom were grateful to be able to eat a “daily rice.” No beans here. Just rice once a day. For what that kind of gratitude looks like, check out this video.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess. 5:18.
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