When I was a girl I don’t remember watching Disney movies and wishing for my prince. When I was a girl I remember watching Sesame Street and thinking Big Bird was the penguin’s tuxedo. That bird was a pimp! This is not tale about my delusions as a child about romance and love, I am 31, that gig is up. This is a story of the kind of love we were put on this earth for. This is a story of two unlikely pairs that grace the Louisiana kitchens generation after generation. This is a great southern tale that has become more than folk lore, it is love story that proves itself week after week, and it is told over the course of 2 days. Starting on the day of rest.
There are three seasons in Louisiana. What the rest of world knows as winter, we know as Mardi Gras. What the rest of the world knows as Spring, we know as crawfish season. What some know as summer, we know as snowball season (or the days of oppressive humidity and heat, hence snowballs being an absolute necessity, not a want.) What the world knows as fall, we know as Football season, specifically Sunday’s in the Dome with Black and Gold.
On Sundays the faithful get up and go to church, they give thanks for the many blessings and pray for another win for our boys. We pray that our rice is fluffy, our gumbo roux is perfect, and more than that, we pray for patience for the soaking that is about to be. We all go home after our prayers and we head to the kitchen. We fill our bowl with water and that’s when the love story begins again, faithfully, as it has for generations…we let the red kidney beans soak.
Little heads peak over the counter, not quite understanding why there are beans filling a bowl of water. The beans are just hanging out with each other. I imagine they are discussing the importance of the trinity, for no fridge should be without three key veggies: celery, bell pepper, and onion. I imagine they move on after some bean tries to weigh in about how you should add garlic to the trinity. There is always one or two fancy beans. No offense fancy beans, but the garlic is lagniappe and it is not a need, it is your greedy want. After all the beans are ganging up on the gaggle of fancy beans about the garlic debate, a bean, the veteran bean reminds us of the real tragedy of a fridge, “What about when a fridge is out of butter.” It is the veteran bean that knows a couple of things. He knows:
- Rice should be cooked with 2 bay leaves per 1.5 cups of dried grain.
- Butter and Bacon are much like a good story of passion and love. It will fill your heart with both joy and fat.
- You can’t rush a good roux. This one is what makes that veteran bean wise beyond his years. He knows that he will never step foot in a stock pot of roux, but he has seen many a pots of gumbo in his day.
That veteran bean has been waiting. What’s 8-12 hours he thinks. In 8 to 12 hours he will meet his match. If his keepers. are patient with his love story, he will meet his later, but today is Sunday, a day of rest, a day to soak. He knows tomorrow, on Monday, he gets to meet his soul mate, rice.
While he waits…the faithful, his keepers, they are watching the black and gold. The are yelling at the TV, arguing about how the Saints do not get their due with ESPN or NFL Network. They go from yelling profanities to “Bless you Boys.” They sulk a little bit when the dreaded 2012 season is brought up with out our coach. This doesn’t phase the veteran bean, he is waiting for his love story to unfold.
I read somewhere that our Louisiana’s true riches lie in our stories. Our wealth lies in the great southern narrative, and we, my friends, are rich beyond our years. My favorite love story is the union of a grain of rice and the patiently soaking red bean. Red Beans and Rice to most is just a dish, but to me. To me it is the story of courtship and love. There have never been a greater pair than the unsuspecting grain of rice and the patiently soaking veteran red bean.
Some love stories recreate themselves generation after generation. Some love stories are worth hoping for. Some love stories live only in our hearts when we open our hearts and minds to see what is invisible. Some love stories lie in southern comfort food and kitchen tables.
May you find the red bean to your rice and keep chasing paper rainbows…W