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When Life Gives You an Earthquake, Make Beans


Like most people in the Napa Valley, I just want to get this last earthquake behind me. I'm tired of thinking about it: the lost money, the damages, that initial view of our floor here at Rancho Gordo with bottles of hot sauce, pecan oil, bars of chocolate, broken pottery and all the new books that sat in this diaster stew. You want to acknowledge what you've been through but it feels like there's a fine line between that and indulgence. I just want to get back to normal. Everyone's speed to normal is different but I'm ready.


For me the best way to get back to normal is over my stove cooking for family and friends. This last weekend I decided to venture back and it was a happy experience. It's silly but making beans took me to normal! I decided to cook my beautiful Flor de Junio beans from Mexico and turn them into Charro beans.

I cooked them first with just sauteed onion and garlic, using olive oil. While they cooked, I heated up four pieces of bacon and then fried some more onions and some finely chopped fresh serrano chiles in the bacon grease. As I did, I fell in love with the little green chile pieces and how pretty they looked in the bacon fat. I also added a red bell pepper that I'd previosly roasted and peeled. Can you tell I'm still a little out of it? But better still, as I sauteed the vegetables that I'd later put back into the beans, it dawned on me that after 54 years, I finally think I'm a pretty good cook. After the beans were mostly cooked, I added a can of beer, the bacon and the sauteed chiles. I also added some of the reduced tomatoes from my overflowing CSA box, but not too many. I wanted to the beans to be the star, with some help from the bacon, and everything else a supporting player.

I served them for dinner and I can say they were incredible. Flor de Junio are solid but tender and perfect for this kind of dish. Having some freinds over for dinner with a few family members, serving beans, pouring wine, listening to good music and plenty of laughs felt like normal. The work isn't over but I'm back.

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