Tuesday, October 27, 2009

28.0 Black Bean/White Album

Starring Erin, Mike & Sarah
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: The Beatles by the Beatles

“Half of what I say is meaningless…”

So, Erin was supposed to be baking cookies for this month’s article (the announcement of which emptied my salivary glands) but apparently something happened to the dough, and we had a TOTAL #&$%! DISASTER on our hands! Well, not on my hands – I was halfway across the room flipping through a TV Guide from November 1976. I was conjuring the autumns of my youth for this first article of the fall.

When I was a kid, in the 1970s, the fall was the best of times and the worst of times (I just made that up). School restarted, and while I always enjoyed the first few days (what with the fresh notebooks and new dungarees), the seeming endlessness of it, the unbearable distance from the next summer, marked my biological calendar for life. Even today, at September’s cusp, a strange twinge in my gut triggers a phantom panic.

Tonight it’s raining. We still have the windows open, but the telepathy of fall has sent a cool transmission. It is faint, and in the rain. The train passes through and the wind carries the call-and-response of the mournful whistle and the canine baying. I’m reminded of the outro of the Beatles’ “Good Morning, Good Morning.” You know, with the barking…

You do own Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, right? So maybe it’s not the masterpiece it’s held up to be (for my money, there weren’t enough oboes), but it’s certainly influential. Though my brother Jim vehemently disagrees, I’m more impressed with their follow-up, popularly known as the White Album. I’ve owned the LP for years (jeez, I bet I bought it around ‘86?). But I’d never owned the CD until I purchased the new re-mastered version last week.

The Beatles White Album doesn’t have much to do with soup, although the word is uttered once during “Revolution 9”. My cursory research yields this is the only reference to soup in all of the Beatles lyrics. But the White Album holds no shortage of food: “Glass Onion”, “Wild Honey Pie”, and “Savoy Truffle”. “Piggies” sets the protagonists at the dinner table; “Cry Baby Cry” tackles a royal breakfast.

Ah, my thoughts are all a’swirl! You see, with fall approaching, my nostalgia grows a thicker coat, a bit ragged and ursine with each turned page of the calendar. The Fall TV Lineup of 1982, bare trees trembling outside a library window, shopping for Halloween costumes at Richie’s Variety, and the Beatles: these are loose bits in the pockets of my autumns. Especially the Beatles. Especially the White Album.

I close my eyes and see myself crunching through the oranged maple leaves while “Rocky Raccoon” tumbles through my ears. I feel like “Mother Nature’s Son” hiking up the mountain for blackberries. I saw a “Blackbird” fly! It’s such a “Long, Long, Long” walk that when I return home, “I’m So Tired.” “’Good Night’,” I mumble as I slog to the bedroom. But I’ve forgotten something – I’m hungry! The house is a bit chilly; rain and its dark clouds banished a fair piece of heat today. I’m starving! It’s fall!

“It’s black bean soup. You want any?” asks Sarah.

“Nah, I don’t like black beans,” I reply.

“He really doesn’t,” says Erin, “but I’ll have a bowl.”

Later, I’m on the couch eating macaroni & cheese, when my eyes start burning. But in the good way; in the grilling onion way. I peer into Erin’s bowl. A dollop of pure white sour cream floats on the surface of the black bean soup. Erin takes a picture. She swirls the sour cream into the soup. For a moment, the yin and the yang appear. Then yang swallows yin. Or the other way around. Is yang the spicy one?

I try a spoonful. That’s a pretty nice soup, nice and spicy! Then a flash, like a pulse of disco and it’s fall again. The evening sky is pumpkin red. There’s a cold anticipation to the air, as if cooling its jets for the winter. The steam climbs like ivy into the high dark corners of the house. The soup at once is exquisite and comforting.

Soon, the new Fall TV season, Halloween, stuffing & gravy, Time-Life Music Christmas album commercials…

Soon the butter cookies, the apple cider, the leftover bag of Midnight Milky Ways and Snickers Dark…

For now, keep the soup simmering, and I’ll tell you about the walrus & me…


2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
Salt & pepper
1 can beef broth
3 cans black beans, rinsed
1 ½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp ginger
½ tsp coriander
Cayenne pepper
Cilantro & sour cream to top

Ina large pot on medium heat, add oil. Sautee diced onions, peppers, and crushed garlic. When softened, add beef broth, rinsed black beans, and spices. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Partially mash mixture. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, to thicken. Garnish with tortilla chips, sour cream and parsley. Salt & pepper to taste.
The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: erinandmike@sellwoodkitchen.com