Failure at the Squish of the Bean
Some of us
are doomed to fail at the same thing over and over again. Each time we
fail, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go right on out and
lore warns of the dangers of adding bean to pasta. Beware, it says, for
both are dry foods. Unless the greatest of care is exercised, you, too,
will wind up with a dish that is dry enough that to consume it would be
to risk causing the moisture in your body to flee in terror.
down this path is both bitter and memorable. Who can forget the great
olive oil disaster of 2005? From whose mind can we purge memories of
the great lemon and oil massacre of 2004? These, and other disasters,
live on in the thoughts of the survivors, scarred this day to the point
of tremors at incident’s mention.
your call, however. When failure besets you . . . it is the time to
begin anew. This is when you keep at it, time and time again, until you
get it right. No matter the cost, whether it means a week of starvation,
or three straight years of the same food, there is no excuse for
allowing failure to get the best of you.
lines are drawn. Armor is donned, swords are drawn and battle is joined.
In the kitchen, we shall enter and either return victorious or return
not at all.
appropriately, with our good friend the bean. You look at it and wonder
why it would hurt you so. It would appear to be the natural
accompaniment of the length of pasta. Both require water in which to
soften, yet neither appear to like each other very well.
bean, either through the purchase of the canned variety, or by soaking
it and boiling until it mashes easily with a fork. You say to yourself,
“This is but one-third of the battle and by all appearances it must be
an easy win.”
thus a dangerous enemy. It creeps up upon you and whacks you across the
head while you aren’t looking, dulling your senses and giving you a head
injury-induced sense of euphoria. Yes, if the battle were as easy as
boiling some beans, it would indeed be over.
beans are cooked, you must now advance over the tallest hill on the
battlefield. Here, before you know it, you are at a place where victory
is either won or you are cast down in abject defeat.
should be a simple one, to complement but not overpower the bean, which
is meant to be the main attraction. Yet, at the same time, the sauce
must be strong enough to keep both bean and pasta from drying out.
onions and yellow hot peppers, plenty of them. Chop them into bite-sized
parts. The beans know they are the star and will not appreciate upstart
members of the supporting cast attempting to steal their thunder.
vegetables in olive oil and garlic until soft and add enough tomatoes
and dried oregano for the sauce to become a bit watery. Allow it to cook
down, but not too much. Juice here is as precious as shelter in a storm,
water in the desert or a good excuse when you’ve missed deadline.
When it has
cooked down just a bit, add as many beans as the sauce can hold without
there being serious danger of bean overload. This point is tricky. You
will know when you’ve gone past it, but could live out the rest of your
days wondering, “Was there room for perhaps just one or two more beans?”
It is a curse, yes, but it is your curse, a miserable fate to which you
are doomed by past failures.
pepper it, stir it, mix it. Allow it to cook some more, so that if the
water is lost, it is lost through absorption into the beans. Begin to
pasta here will seem like denouement. It is simple, uneventful. It does
not tug at the heart or recall past failures. It requires only the
boiling of water, and the adding of noodles for eight-to-10 minutes.
finished, it is time to mix sauce and pasta. Stir them carefully.
test of success or failure comes at the end of a fork. Use it now. If it
tastes delicious, if your mouth doesn’t go as dry as a desert, you have
succeeded. If it does, failure continues to ride your back like a
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