and I’ve been meaning to tell you

Okay, here are my boots.

Today, I was driving up to school to pick up the ladies for dance class.  I was on a particularly Ethan Frome-ish slice of road (right before I actually pass Edith Wharton’s house) and the snow banks must have been 8 feet high on either side of the road.  It was desolate, and blowy, and cold as hell even though I was warm inside my little car.  A song came on the stereo that I first heard in college on Joey’s record player.   I was teaching a dance class in the gym at school once a week at the time, an improvisation and choreography class.  I loved this song right away–it was sort of sulky and emotional and dramatic in all the right ways, and I bought the CD and brought it to class and we were doing some sort of specific improv exercise.  I don’t remember what it was, but the class was divided into groups, trios or quartets, and this one group started the exercise–it was my friend Eilen, and this woman Maria who is an actress in San Francisco now, and one more person–maybe Anna who sells books in New York?  But they took whatever assignment I had given them, and they did something so beautiful–it might have been some of the best choreography I have ever seen.  We didn’t even have a dance studio–we were in a squash court, and I remember watching this spontaneous amazing moment with tears, and the best part about it was that they had no idea.  It was all unplanned, and they had no idea what they were creating just then.
          I hadn’t heard the song in a long time, but today as I was driving between those mountains of snow, the song came on and I could see the exact moment.  I’ve been all writing and no dancing lately, but they’re really not so different from each other (except that I’m all hunched over and achy from writing and I’d be standing up straight and achy were I dancing), and I just thought about those moments!  How lucky and wonderful they are, no matter how we’re part of them or how they come.

Last night I made my last bag of Rancho Gordo beans that had sat on my shelf.  Every time I have cooked a new bag of Rancho Gordo beans, I have said, “I have to write about this!  It’s time to write about Rancho  Gordo beans!”  Every time, I take a picture of the bag with its stylish label, and the picture usually looks something like this.

There was a time a year or two ago when these beans were coming up in conversation a lot.  This blogger and that blogger were writing about them–and then one or two people asked me if I had tried them… it was like when there is a wave of one kind of exciting thing that almost seems to be in the air, like olive oil cake or something other like that that just keeps coming up.  And I was tempted- I really was–all these beautifully named heirloom beans from this little farm in California–there was nothing not to love.  But beans are what I buy when I don’t have the money to buy much else, and five or six bucks for a bag always made me say– “well I can’t quite decide–I’ll come back to it later.” 
Then I had dinner at my friend Fran’s house, and she was cooking out of the Rancho Gordo Beans cookbook.  She was making their baked beans recipe, and when I asked her what she thought of the beans, she blushed a little, and opened her pantry, and I swear there must have been 20 different kinds of beans in there.
“I have a bit of a problem.”
Now I have a bit of a problem too.  Because I know it’s a strange thing to say about beans, but these are so so so good.  Sadie’s favorite are the Good Mother Stallard beans, and I love the Scarlet Runners, but the cannellinis?  The borlottis?  One needs only to cook these up with a bit of salt and garlic, and eat them with a loaf of crusty bread.  The flavors in these beans are so wonderful and so complicated and so…well, full, that beans are no longer the fall back when we’re broke and there’s nothing in the house to eat.  They are special like a good cut of meat.  Only at 5 bucks for a pound, they’re cheaper than a good cut of meat.
I’ve just been meaning to tell you about these. I’m so glad that I’ve gone and done it–now I can stop taking pictures of every bag of them.

Oh, and anyone going to the NOFA conference this weekend?  I’m teaching a condiments class–if you’re attending the conference, come say hello!  I’ll be the one walking around with my blender.

Happy Thursday, friends.  Hope you’re all warm and well-fed and out of the wind.


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7 Responses to and I’ve been meaning to tell you

  1. M. says:

    Everything about this made me feel good. Beans. Eilen. Anna. Dancing. Crying. Wonderful, all of it. Thank you.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Do you know if the beans are grown organically or biodynamically? i couldn't seem to find that info on their website. I am curious to try them from your description.

  3. MH says:

    So what was the song??? I will have to try those beans.

  4. alanachernila says:

    Rebecca, I went back to the introduction to the Rancho Gordo book as well, and there isn't any information about whether or not they are organic or biodynamically grown. What Steve Sando does say, however, is this– "Beans are easy to grow and have few natural enemies. Farmers often grow beans and other legumes in empty fields keep the nitrogen in the soil at the end of the season and treating it as 'green manure' or fertilizer. Fresh organic matter is key for healthy soil development."
    His focus on growing heirloom beans in the first place leads me to assume that he is farming consciously, and I know that many small farms choose not to pay for organic certification, but it would be great to know more about his practices. I'll keep researching and let you know what I find…

  5. alanachernila says:

    MH, The Dark Ages by Bedhead. Incidentally on this mix from way back.
    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=8WIH2BNY

  6. Anonymous says:

    Alana! Your new boots are so amazing that you're levitating!
    Sarah Yanni

  7. Lissa says:

    Sometimes I read your posts, and it's like talking to you, only not. Other times I think. This is not enough. Today is one of those days. This is not enough, and yet it's all I get. Hope condiments went well. Your followers are interested to hear about it.

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