|A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself. —Malcolm X|
Since today is Indigenous People’s Day in the Americas, and the indigenous people of the Southeastern part of the US or what was really a huge land mass called the Americas taken care of by tribal governments and societies, the beans they cultivated and pass along should be the focus of today’s celebrations.
The last time I saw my friend Ken Albala I had him sign my Beans book. The book is a treasure. You can still buy it online and in bookstores. Rereading some passages today about Christopher Columbus and what exactly he brought to the Americas and why he set out in the first place is a sobering experience.
“Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians, and princes who love and promote the holy Christian faith, and are enemies of the doctrine of Mahomet, and of all idolatry and heresy, determined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the above-mentioned countries of India, to see the said princes, people, and territories, and to learn their disposition and the proper method of converting them to our holy faith; and furthermore directed that I should not proceed by land to the East, as is customary, but by a Westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidence that any one has gone.
So after having expelled the Jews from your dominions, your Highnesses, in the same month of January, ordered me to proceed with a sufficient armament to the said regions of India, and for that purpose granted me great favors, and ennobled me that thenceforth I might call myself Don, and be High Admiral of the Sea, and perpetual Viceroy and Governor in all the islands and continents which I might discover and acquire, or which may hereafter he discovered and acquired in the ocean; and that this dignity should be inherited by my eldest son, and thus descend from degree to degree forever. ” The Diaries of Christopher Columbus
Ken’s book touches on so many of the really important issues that the history of beans includes, including this absolutely brilliant summary about why al the resistance to soybeans people express might be nonsense. That is not to say, however, that some people don’t actually have soybean allergies. Proteins can have that effect.
But properly soaking and fermenting soybeans – the next post is all about making soy and other bean kojis – can quite dramatically reduce or eliminate those concerns.
Ken Albala gets into it in a precise one paragraph description in his book:
“The importance of fermenting soybeans was not only a matter of preservation. Although they could not have known this, fermentation counteracts the anti-nutritionalfactors present in soy. Soybeans contain what are called trypsin inhibitors, which prevent the pancreas from producing a digestive enzymes important in breaking down protein.
Raw or improperly cooked soybeans can also cause an enlarged pancrease; they inhibit growth and lead to cancerous tumors. Phytic acid present in soybeans also hinders the absorption of iron and zinc, which are necessary for the proper function of the nervous system
The phytates essentially fuse with the metal ions, including calcium, forming compounds that pass directly through the digestive tract unchanged. Fermentation destroys these toxins and the enzymes involved in the process also break down soy making it more digestible, and in a sense pre-cooking them so they require less fuel.
In other words, fermenting soybeans not only made them more interesting and tasty, but also provided a range of more nutritious foods that could support a large population.”
The book, Beans, also treats a few other subjects really well. Including how Italians in different parts of Italy made their famous and fabulous fagioli – with recipe – and not only the story of Tepiary Beans, but of the indigenous people’s whose day we celebrate.
You could even buy it on Kindle right now here. Although unless you are using canned beans – even soybeans- soaking them must be done properly!
About Ken Albala and Beans
From the description at Amazon: “Winner of The 2008 Jane Grigson Award, issued by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). Winner of the 2008 Cordon d’ Or Culinary Literature – History Culinary Academy Award. This is the story of the bean, the staple food cultivated by humans for over 10,000 years. From the lentil to the soybean, every civilization on the planet has cultivated its own species of bean. The humble bean has always attracted attention – from Pythagoras’ notion that the bean hosted a human soul to St. Jerome’s indictment against bean-eating in convents (because they “tickle the genitals”), to current research into the deadly toxins contained in the most commonly eaten beans. Over time, the bean has been both scorned as “poor man’s meat” and praised as health-giving, even patriotic. Attitudes to this most basic of foodstuffs have always revealed a great deal about a society. Beans: A History takes the reader on a fascinating journey across cuisines and cultures.”