Let off your fiery fireworks, for this year lentils, beans and all their beloved cousins in the legume family are celebrated!
2016 is declared by the UN as the International Year of Pulses aiming to highlight their nutritional benefits and their role in sustainable food production. For us Greeks though, legumes could be worthy of praise each year, as we have been huge fans and avid consumers since ancient times. And no wonder, as these ‘humble, earthy fruits’ received their esteemed super food quality, long before any marketing hype.
Now if you ask me, I would happily exchange my cow for some magic beans – as Jack did in the famous bedtime story- for a million reasons.
Chickpeas, lentils, peas, beans etc are like supercharged batteries for your body and brain. Low in fat and high in protein, they can be your best friends for weight loss, doing the job of filling you up (Paleo diet doesn’t work for me either!).
Needless to say how cheap they are, always frowned upon as poor man’s meat. In Greece we use the saying ‘for a bowl of lentil stew’, meaning to give away sth for less than its real value. Professor Flint-Hamilton knows best. In her article, Aristophanes is the one who uses lentils and chickpeas to highlight the lack of sophistication of his characters, while Hippocrates recommends lentils as a remedy for ulcers and hemorrhoids.
Isn’t it just great, that all these valuable pearls and beads are beautifully incorporated into world cuisines, in ways that allow their full aromas and vibrant colors to shine? Wouldn’t be panspermia – a bowl of mixed legumes and grains offered by ancient Greeks to Demeter to ensure an abundant harvest- the ideal canvas for an artist or a fashion designer to take inspiration from?
But the greatest thing of all is that legumes are a passe-partout in the kitchen. So versatile and all-purpose, they can be eaten anytime of the day, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. So ‘social and friendly’, there is hardly any food that isn’t fun to mix and match with. Even if the fridge looks half-empty, (or half-full, whatever).
The other day, I strolled up and down the street market and oops, so typically me, chatting with all the vendors and grannies in line, and I forgot what I really wanted to buy… Next minute I am there in my kitchen emergently calling for my problem-solving imagination to answer the never ending question “What’s for lunch today?”. Black eyed peas* (it’s beans guys! -stop baffling non native speakers) and lentils* called to arms from my cupboards and there you have it! – a tasty and easy to make salad, embracing all the essence of the Greek land. Got leftovers? Save them for next day’s runny yolk served better on bulgur wheat than bread.
* Black-eyed peas were the only well known beans in ancient Greece, best quality considered now those of Preveza origin.
* Englouvi on Lefkada island is the home of a delicious and rare variety of lentils.
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