Saturday, November 15, 2014

Black Bean Soup & Modern Nutrition

For years I've been dismayed that in line at the grocery store, I've never once been behind someone who put enough real food in their grocery cart. Mostly, people buy boxed, frozen, and bagged junk. They're either too busy, too ignorant of nutrition, they don't know how to cook, or they're not interested, or all four. I'm not judging them so much as feeling sadness about how far our country has veered from former wholesome times.

If I had to guess about the trends leading to this, I'd first point to the women who entered the workforce to help out during World War II, and stayed there after the war ended, possibly due to widowhood. Next, there were women who entered the workforce after the birth control pill was introduced in the 1960's. Finally, some women began working full-time when credit card use increased during the financial boom and increased materialism of the 1980's, which enticed many into debt and larger houses, thereby forcing families into dual-career households. Rising health care costs attributed to the trend as well, as more money was taken from paychecks to cover employee health plans.

With more women trying to balance career and home responsibilities, convenience drove food industry trends, and fewer women grew up knowing how to cook. As a single teacher for nine years, I knew how to cook just a few different dishes. I loved to read, not cook. My mother wasn't interested in imparting any cooking techniques to her daughters, and I never asked for any lessons. She did a combination of convenience and from-scratch cooking.

As a "modern" woman, my identity wasn't tied up in a domestic package. I didn't feel inadequate that I couldn't cook well until I became a stay-at-home mother.

I began following cookbooks semi-regularly when my firstborn was 2 years old, but it wasn't until five years ago that I reformed my ways for good. It finally dawned on me that I was responsible for my family's health. The Lord had given me that responsibility as a keeper at home, and I needed to take it seriously for the glory of God.

You think I'm exaggerating about my grocery store experiences, but I'm still waiting for a consumer to appear in front of me who actually cooks from scratch, or cooks much at all. I guess it's the sociologist in me interested in societal trends.

But really, this post is about black beans.

Dried legumes are truly a wonder food, and Americans don't eat enough of them, although those living in the southwest do better than people in other parts of the country. I remember living in California all those years, especially in San Diego, sans husband and children, where there were fabulous trendy Mexican restaurants, especially one called El Torito, which featured a scrumptious black bean soup.

Black beans are the healthiest legume.  Here are the facts on dry beans as a whole.

I made a black bean soup last night, in a hurry to make dinner in under 30 minutes, on the first snowy day of the year, in a 66-degree house.

Easy Black Bean Soup  

Note about spiciness: Beans are very plain, but nevertheless, taste the soup after adding each teaspoon or can of a spicy item, so as not to over spice and turn your family off. The recipe below is pretty spicy, so cut the spices in half if you prefer it more bland.


4 15-oz cans black beans, preferably low-salt variety
2 small cans mild Rotel, or 2 small cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 T dried minced onion
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup chicken broth (optional, I just had some to use up)

On the side ingredients:

Sour cream
fresh diced onion
grated cheese
tortilla chips or cornbread


Pour beans with their juices into a large sauce pan. Add all other ingredients, and cook on medium heat until boiling. Turn off heat, and take out two cups of the soup and put it through a blender. Return to sauce pan and simmer soup on low about 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream, grated cheese, diced onion, and perhaps tortilla chips or cornbread. If you don't serve with fresh diced onion, you could saute some diced onion and put that in the soup at cooking time, instead of the dried minced onion.

What About the Children?

If your children do not like diced tomatoes and/or chilies, you might put those through the blender as well to mask them. My children were not enamored with this soup, but I'm not giving up. It was mostly the look of it. It may take this winter to get them used to it.

I've noticed when we have the neighbor kids over for dinner, most of them will eat very little real food. The 9-year-old we babysit is sent over with Bob Evan's mac n cheese, hot dogs, and a banana and juice boxes, or five or six breakfast sausage links and a fruit cup, or nothing at all, and he won't eat what we eat. If we eat pasta, he will only eat plain pasta noodles. One night I made homemade chicken noodle soup, thinking certainly every child would eat that, but he said he only eats it "from the store".

I have my own picky eaters--Paul won't eat any berries or oatmeal or eggs--but I know not to give up, and not to give them substitute dinners. I should mention that the neighbor boy's grandmother has to pick her battles. She works many hours and is in her sixties, so I can't blame her for his diet; he's a handful.

We all have to pick our battles. In the summer, for example, it's more important to keep kids hydrated, then to force them to drink only water.

The best thing is never to start the unhealthy trends to begin with. When making changes, be patient and persistent. And train your kids to train their kids with best practices from the start.

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Anonymous said...

It is so sad that our consumer culture has persuaded so many of us that we 'need' a bigger car, a bigger house, the latest gadgets, etc., etc.

I wonder if, with TV dinners and everything in an instant, what people are really trying to fill are emotional and spiritual holes.

My middle child came second in a cross country race at school last week, behind another girl and beating around 60 boys and girls. She is not a particularly talented runner, she's just fit and healthy. I also count restricted access to television and computer as important.

I don't wish to judge anyone's circumstances or lifestyle, but I do know that being a mother is the most important job I will ever have. And that looks like a yummy soup!

Christine said...

Congratulations to your daughter! Motherhood is very hard, but such an honor! The hardest things bring the highest honor I think.

Preparing food at home takes patience and we are not a patient culture anymore. It is also about relationship. We have to be home together to consume it.

Anonymous said...

Relationship - yes! Everything boils down to relationship :-)