Birthday Calypso


Quick, a post. Why the hurry? I like to maintain the image of one who posts once a month. Who cares! I know—I can skip a month. Or I can do two in November, backdate one, and be all set going forward, but that would mean less list-completing endorphins in October. Today, however, is my birthday (forty-first, boring stuff), and it’s endorphins I want, so it’s settled. Furthermore, it’s the day before my son and I take off for eleven days in <del>sunny</del> rainy Portugal. If you ask me, there’s no packing like the kind of packing that leaves behind a spotless house and a newly uploaded post.

As for the post itself: pretty, huh? That 56mm f/1.2 portrait lens of mine is a beast. And the beans! Breathtaking. Known by several names—yin-yang beans, orca beans, calypsos—these are a kidney bean hybrid, cream-colored with signature mottled markings in black or brown. The ones in the photo were grown in Uzbekistan and sold in the whole foods aisle of a Qvickly in Copenhagen. Next, they waited for nearly eight weeks—in Warsaw—as I put off cooking them until after I snapped some photos. See? More things I get to cross off that list on my birthday.

I’d start soaking these cute yin-yangs right now, except our flight leaves at lunchtime tomorrow, and maybe bean-cooking is not what I need to be doing as we count down to takeoff (especially since I’m already baking crackers). When I do soak them, it will be for about 15 hours, and I’ll change the water a few times in the process. I’ll add salt, both when soaking and cooking. That extends cooking time, but contrary to popular belief, does not keep the beans from attaining softness. It also flavors them and keeps the skins intact for maximum visual impact. For optimum digestibility I’ll use a trick I learned from Ayurveda: before cooking the beans at a slow simmer, I’ll boil them over high heat for a few minutes, discarding that foamy, muddy first batch of water and rinsing the beans and pot afterwards. I’ll add a pinch of soda to help with softening, but not more, because I want the bicarb to offset the mineral content of Mokotów tap water, not impart its own soapy taste. I might add a small whole onion and a bay leaf as well, both of which will get tossed when the beans are ready.

Before serving, I’m likely to douse my calypsos in fruity olive oil and add either a mirepoix of red onion or some smashed raw garlic for a zingy twist, as well as shavings of pecorino or another zesty, salty, umami-rich add-on, like anchovies or oil-cured olives. Just before serving, I’ll stir in either loads of rucola, the leaves of an entire bunch of parsley, some chopped radishes, or paper-thin slices of raw celery stalk for a fresh, enzyme-rich lift. The wine, I imagine, will be a light-bodied Portuguese red, given how I expect to be on a post-Portugal high for the rest of the year. Easy fare, walking the line between heavy and light in that way I like best. It won’t be anybody’s birthday, but if it’s November seventeenth, it will wind up being the meal that marks the day I turn fifteen thousand days old. Now that does not sound boring.

Post—done. Online check-in—done. I’m afraid it’s time to start packing.