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bless the hands that grow {szechuan style green & black beans}

September 11th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

It doesn’t take much to get my hands dirty, foraging in the garden for the tomato harvest, cutting herbs for the kitchen or pulling up the few weeds that mock the dwindling layer of mulch over the soil. And those tomato plants love to leave their thick, green coloring on my hands and arms as I pick, the fuzzy leaves and stalks brushing against me. When I wash off afterwards, the water runs green in the sink, soap turning an odd greenish-yellow, the color of life from the soil.

(photo courtesy of Bossy Acres) 

I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few weeks about the blessings found in our food, and the way that they nurture us, physically and mentally. It’s been on my mind because I’ve had a lot of moments lately where I find myself reaching for something that I know will feed my stress level, but not necessarily nourish my body, and right as rain, those poor choices come back strong, barreling distress through my gut and turning on cravings that I quelled long ago. I’m surrounded by food all day long at work, and when I’m feeling under the gun, tired, bored, angry or just plain annoyed, it’s so easy to listen to my emotions and feed them what they want.

But that isn’t helping at all. The more I give in to a poor choice, the stronger I allow those voices to be. And when they clamor their mocking voices through stomach upset and poor nutrition, everything about me seems to sink. I know it’s not good for me, through repeated and persistent experiences, yet I am pulled backwards in to that abyss with a rock solid hand that I can’t seem to pry off of me.

And one day recently, the mail delivered a slim book to my hands, called ‘Bless this Food; Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World’. I began reading through the book, paging over blessings from all cultures and portions of the Earth, from way back in time to more present voices. The dwelling on these words, designed to lift thanks for the harvest, appreciate the sustenance found there, and to make our focus stronger, has begun to settle in to my veins, driving out the harsh voices calling for junk food, or salty somethings.

In particular, this verse really hit home for me: 

“When we eat the good bread, we are eating months of sunlight, weeks of rain and snow from the sky, richness out of the Earth. We should be great, each of us radiant, full of music and full of stories. Able to run the way clouds do, able to dance like the snow and the rain. But nobody takes time to think that he eats all these things, and that the sun, rain and snow are part of himself.”

 ~~Monica Shannon

(Excerpted from the book Bless this Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World © 2013 Adrian Butash. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com
<http://www.newworldlibrary.com/> or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.)
[Disclaimer: I was sent the book ‘Bless this Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World’ for review purposes.
All words and opinions are solely my own.]

It isn’t so much a blessing as it is a mantra, a verse calling forth the full spectrum of the growing season, from seed to harvest, invoking the power of natural elements that supported the plant’s journey. When we eat of these elements, filling ourselves with months of sunlight, rain and the richness of the soil, we fill our bodies with that as well. The junk that goes in fills us in another way, one born of petri dishes, huge vats in manufacturing facilities and chemical names we can’t pronounce. It’s no wonder we slip into poor choices, melancholy and irritability when our food is fake and lifeless. With no rain and wind embedded within, or sunlight that draws the plant up from itself, we’re not consuming food, we’re just eating science. And there’s no life in that.

But what I want, and need is food that comes from the simplest source, from loving hands that work through scorching heat, tending the Earth and coaxing from it a bounty that’s blessed us all season long. I’m so thankful for the hard work that Bossy Acres has done, and really, all the farmers that toil each year to provide us with a feast of the eyes, the mouth and the soul.

(photo courtesy of Bossy Acres)

The food from the CSA boxes tastes like sunshine, rainfall and the very air where it lives. It is indeed worthy of blessing.

Here’s a zingy and delicious side dish using fresh green beans, wax beans and dragon beans that came in my CSA box from Bossy Acres. The black beans are a really nice addition, and turn this dish in to a substantial meal. You can add chicken or spicy shrimp for extra flavor. I cooked this dish on the grill in a cast-iron skillet.

Szechuan Style Green & Black Beans

1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
1-1/2 c. cooked black beans
2/3 c. water
2 T. soy sauce, or Tamari
1 T. chili garlic sauce
1 T. each chili oil and sesame oil
1 t. smoked paprika
1 T. grated ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced fine

In a glass measuring cup, whisk all ingredients together except the beans. Set aside.

Using a heavy skillet, such as stainless steel, or cast iron, heat a small amount of coconut oil, then add the beans. Cook over medium-high heat, tossing frequently, until beans begin to soften and start to brown in spots. Reduce heat slightly, then add sauce carefully. It might spatter, so beware!

Toss the beans to coat them with the sauce, add the black beans and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer the beans until the sauce reduces and becomes thick and a bit syrupy, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately.


One response to “bless the hands that grow {szechuan style green & black beans}”

  1. I grow dragon beans in my garden! I love them–I just wish I could get more out of the plants. 🙂 I need to find a CSA to join around here. I buy from our local farmers market, but I appreciate the serendipity of a CSA box.