Adzuki beans and arepas make for a pretty good cold weather supper about this time of year. I know we are supposed to be in the midst of Earth shattering changes that will drive all of us into our backyards during late March to grill out before the seriously hot weather sets in. In total honest to God facticity I did actually see some smoke wafting above my backyard fence this week when one of my neighbors took it upon himself to trot outside around six pm and fire up the charcoal. After all we did just endure the “spring ahead” and it’s not all that dark around six pm, so why not trot yourself outside? Especially when due to the Earth shattering changes we are enduring it is actually close to 60° out there. That’s what I’d like to know. I did get a lecture the other day from Chef Daniel Patterson about grilling your meat too long. “Cancer pills” was the phrase he used, but I’m not going to use my cosmic authority as the local expert on food ethics to pull a smug alert and tell you that you shouldn’t be outside in your backyward on a warm afternoon in the month of March checking to see if the bottom of your Weber grill has perchance rotted out over the winter. And what better way to do that, I note, than firing up some of those crumbly briquettes that are lying around in the bottom of the Kingsford bag that you bought last August. Last August was when Chef Dan’s advice about cancer pills was really more appropriate. Of course Dan also gave me a tip about grilling while he was lecturing us on the health risks of eating overly charred meats. “Turn it over every 30 seconds or so,” he said. The point being that this gives you great flavor without creating any of those heterocyclic amines (not to mention polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
Chef Dan used some horrifying story about holding your thumb over an open flame and noticing that although this is pretty rough on your skin, you don’t feel a thing down in the pit of your palm. I’m not really sure I follow what he was trying to say there, though it did have something to do with idea that you can’t actually cook the pit of your palm by holding your thumb over an open flame. These celebrity chefs! What will they think of next? I’m actually just going to chalk all that up to this week’s obligatory tangent, except that before moving on I’ll note that we usually just refer to heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by the friendly names of “HCAs” and “PAHs” here in the Thornapple Blog. I don’t want any HCAs or PAHs writing lengthy outraged responses in the comments section of the blog. I already have enough trouble with robots who are posting links to Russian shopping malls or porn sites (though I will say it’s much better since we switched to the new WordPress platform). Still and all, I hope all the HCA and PAH readers out there will forgive me if I say that although we take your perspective seriously here at the Blog, we don’t expect to be inviting any of you to dinner.
And that goes especially for those Fridays in March when the temperature has dipped back into the upper twenties. Ha! On Tuesday your neighbors are grilling steaks in the backyard, but by Friday evening it’s feeling pretty chilly out in the backyard and it makes a lot more sense to be cooking up something over the stove that you can slather with the Columbia™ salsa picante that’s been sitting in your spice cabinet ever since you made your last trip to Tampa. Of course my Nana (God rest her soul) would not have known what to make of adzuki beans and arepas. In a similar vein I found myself corrupting the moral fiber of some younger colleagues the other day by suggesting we all head out for some sushi. “We didn’t eat much sushi in my family,” one said. “No kidding,” says I. “We used to scarf down tons of sushi from our TV trays when we were sitting there watching The Red Skelton Show on the little black and white television set mounted on wheels that we used to roll in on those nights when my mother was willing.” She was often willing. I think she rather liked Red Skelton.
Well, I was just kidding then like I am now. My mother may have gotten around to trying some sushi before she passed but I’m as sure that my Nana never did as I am that she never encountered an adzuki bean or an arepa. Pinto beans and cornbread, sure. Chef Dan himself kept referring to himself as a cook, too.
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University