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Rice and Beans

By Sandra Clark

I am fresh off an excellent trip to Costa Rica with my husband. We celebrated our tenth year of marriage with many hours in a terrible BeGo SUV rental as we bumped along narrow weathered roads banked by gorgeous green hillsides, fields of banana trees and wild hibiscus. Our nights were steamy: in unair-conditioned jungle cabins and locally own, tico, bed and breakfasts. And each day we scarfed down the local fare, gallo pinto (a seasoned combination of black beans and rice served with the national condiment, salsa linzano), hungry from our adventures hiking through the rainforested paradise.

While we were only there a week, I ate beans and rice every single day. It seemed like a lot of beans and rice. It was a lot of beans and rice; and I love beans and I like rice, I’ve don’t eat them  day in and day out. Even when I am eating a lot of beans at home, I am moving around in the legume family, never resting my affections on one variety alone. Not the case in Costa Rica. There was only one occasion I was served dark red kidney beans instead of the classic black beans. Rice and beans, beans and rice: any meal, every day. And while I savored each delicious preparations, and there were some excellent ones, it was a lot of repetition.

I confess that variety is a constant craving for me.  At least with food. A friend once challenged me to make a list of all the meals I like and repeat. I gave up after the list was four pages long. I make new recipes several times a week, I am always making up new things, auditioning ones from cooking blogs, magazines and new cookbooks. As much as I like some recipes, I still don’t make them more than quarterly. I don’t do a lot of repetition. Yeah, I know that repetition can be a good thing for creating healthy habits, and simplicity, but it is just so well–regular.
I am certain my kids would welcome more of it. They never seem to tire of reading them same favorite books over and over and over until I hide them until I am ready to read them again and again, again. Life seems rife with it: monthly bills, weekly recycling pickup, daily showers, and twice daily commute to and from wherever you must go. With all life’s regularity, is it so odd I crave the most regular activity, eating, to the the one with variety?

While I’m grateful to have access to the ingredients that enables my addition, I feel bit sad for those who may not share it. On the plane ride home I sighed, not knowing when I would be dining Costa Rican style again, wishing I could have a thick pancake style corn tortilla with a side of tangy cultured crema and black beans at that very moment; I overheard another passenger. He was loudly whooping as our plane touched down on the U.S. airstrip, he couldn’t wait to go home and eat some real food. He confessed that he taken to asking for American style salad dressing and smothering the “nasty tico food” with it so he didn’t have to taste it. I groaned, disgusted by the thought of everything saturated with dressing, and wondered at this other brand of repetition. Then I was sad for him, isn’t variety the spice of life, even if it is just a brief interruption from your regular repetition, rather than merely everything a la ranch dressing. I hoping he doesn’t visit Asia any time soon, I can’t fathom the potential combinations he’d make there…

So while I enjoyed all the rice and beans, beans and rice at any meal and every day, and did for a the last seven days, I am delighted that at home I can have more options, perhaps even ranch dressing. But don’t count on me to make even that the same way every time (just a warning should you be coming for dinner here sometime soon).

Life variety or repetition, what sates you? Are you more adventureous or more prone to eat and repeat?

About Sandra Clark

Sandra Clark Jergensen's writing (most often about food) has been published in Gastronomica, Apartment Therapy, The Exponent, and at Segullah, where she was once the Editor-in-Chief, and now as Features Editor. Sandra geeked out on food and writing as a master's student food studies at University of Texas, Arlington. She makes her home in California where she runs without shoes, foster parents, teaches cooking, develops recipes, and struggles to take pictures with her eyes open, and sometimes all at the same time. She is the owner and creator of thekitchennatural.com.

13 thoughts on “Rice and Beans”

  1. I love trying different food, though it's usually when I eat out. My sons wouldn't be too impressed if I cooked all the new recipes and foods I wanted to try!

    I've realised it also varies as to what's 'adventurous' – I regularly eat kangaroo but when I visited America it was the Macaroni & cheese and cherry coke which were the 'weird' choices!

  2. I am the same way with cooking. Every time I have people over I always say, "I hope you like it, this is the first time I've made this dish." I do have a few favorites I cycle through, but mostly I try new recipes all of the time.

    I LOVED the beans and rice in Costa Rica. On the last day of my trip there, we traipsed all over town so I could get one last plato tipico. I've tried several times to make tico-style beans and rice, but they never taste nearly as good.

  3. I am much more adventurous at home trying new recipes and ingredients. However, when I'm at a restaurant I stick to what I know is good… maybe it's the aspect of not wanting to waste money on a gamble.

    I spent a semester in southern Mexico and ate warm, homemade tortillas with every meal, every day. And on my mission in Brazil, I ate rice and beans every. single. day. In the beginning I thought I wouldn't be able to survive the same whopping portions – but quickly I became accustomed to it, loved it and craved it. I still crave it over 12 years later!!

  4. I love rice and beans; I just made them for dinner last night 🙂 I'm also adventurous and love to try new foods. I did a little project with my kids where we learned about a different country each week for a year and tried new recipes from each country. It was a lot of fun, though I know my kids would be happy eating the same three things for dinner all the time. I don't let them just because it's good for them to try new stuff, but they do eat quesadillas almost every day for lunch.

    Except for food, however, I actually really like having a routine and being at home. I think in that way my kids and I are opposites; they like new experiences but not new food, I like new food but prefer a routine.

  5. I'm like a little kid in my eating habits. I eat one thing for days, then never want it again. Right now I'm on Yoplait's thick and creamy vanilla yogurt. But for Bill, I cook variety. Although, he's really good about leftovers, especially if it's a good dish, like yummy chicken or roast. He'll eat that for three days in a row.

    Rice and beans is/are ? really good for you.

    But I imagine it would get old.

  6. Of the foreign countries I've traveled to, Costa Rica has been my favorite in terms of restaurant meals. The dinner casado usually included not only rice and beans, but often a salad, meat and plantains as well. Parts of Costa Rica also get lots of non-American tourists, so we also had the pleasure of enjoying some homestyle German and Italian food as well. It's a beautiful country, and I'd go back in an instant if there weren't so many places left in the world to see.

  7. I'm all about same ol' same ol' when I cook. It's not where I get my kicks out of creativity. I like the predictability of being able to use my 'store' downstairs, and I like that I know what my kids will eat.

    I regret it sometimes, though, because I worry they haven't learned enough about how to eat different kinds of foods. But alas, it's what works for me.

    I do get my kicks out of cooking without recipes, though, and so there is always a little variety in my monotony in that way. Smoothie variations are a favorite.

  8. I thought I liked Chinese food until I started dating a Taiwanese guy and started spending a lot of time eating with his family. The food is usually greasy, limp, and tasteless. Occasionally there is something freaky, like whole bones in my soup, skin hanging off of meat, whole fish with eyeballs, or very stinky intestines. I'm perfectly aware that they think Panda Express is just American food marketed as Chinese, but I'm okay with that. At least it tastes good. Ha.

    But I also have to mention that their habits with food drive me crazy. For example, I don't want them to offer me meat that's been sitting out all day.

    That being said, they have taken me out to some restaurants that have served really delicious food that they dubbed authentic. So maybe they just aren't the best cooks?

  9. One of my favorite things about traveling is trying out the food or desserts native to the place visiting. Like polenta in a rich cheese sauce in Switzerland or Gaufres in Belgium.

    I love trying new spices and foods; however, I admit, I tend to stick to a lot of repeat recipes or tweaking them here and there. My kids will eat about anything, but my husband is rather picky. I do try at least one new recipe a week- it's usually only about 3 at most, and this weeks was your power bar recipe- Loved it!

  10. I like cooking different things, but I admit, it can be a waste of time. So we need to consider if it is a wise use of our stewardship, and as with most things, a balance is important.

    We've lived in countries where rice and beans are served each evening at 8 p.m., and not only are the people slimmer, but the cooks (usually women) spend much less time cooking and worrying about what to serve.

    This idea is mentioned in THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE, and is consistent with counsel of church leaders to keep things simple.

  11. I hesitate to declare cooking new things a waste of time- it can be work, but for many people it is a creative or relaxing outlet- myself included.

    While I love rice and beans- I am delighted to have opportunity in my diet and lifestyle for more variety.
    I also am unaware we have received counsel from church leadership regarding the simplicity of food we should be eating. Honestly, other than adhering to the WoW, I don't think there is more that we should be worrying about. Do what makes you feel good, healthy and happy- even if that is rice and beans on a highly regular schedule.

    and to Eric- yeah- we had all sort of love for Costa Rica and would love to go back- but it is so true- there are so many, many places I want to visit on limited time and funds.

  12. I think there is definitely a stewardship with our time, but we're also encouraged to find ways to create. I think for some, cooking is a form of creation and/or wholesome recreation, and for others, it's more just a necessity for life. I don't think either is better; just as with anything, we have the opportunity to make decisions based on all the factors in our lives.


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