Change is the only constant, they say, and I get that.
However, what happens when one of life’s fundamental cornerstones turns upside down?
I’m not talking about something trivial like politics or philosophy. I’m talking about the important stuff — like what happens in the kitchen.
My wife and I started cooking with dry beans almost 30 years ago, and because there really wasn’t much of an internet back then, we bought a book.
In this case, it was The Amazing Legume by Alice Jenner, and the advice was simple — soak dry beans and whole peas for 12 hours or overnight and then discard the soaking water and cook them in fresh water. If it isn’t possible to soak the beans overnight, quick soak them by bringing to a boil for two to three minutes and then let them stand for an hour before cooking — in fresh water, of course.
And that’s what we’ve done for almost 30 years. Every once in a while we would forget to soak overnight and have to resort to quick soaking, which I always considered a bit of a failure, but the beans were always soaked — one way or the other.
But now the cornerstone has been wrenched out of its foundation and flipped on its side.
A recent article in the renowned cooking website Epicurious has debunked what it calls the myths about cooking beans.
Epicurious staff members experimented in their kitchen with pinto beans and concluded that unsoaked beans took only 10 minutes longer to cook than those soaked overnight, while quick soaked beans cooked only five minutes quicker than the unsoaked ones. Their conclusion: why bother with soaking?
They also compared beans cooked in their soaking water with those cooked with fresh water and determined that if you really need to soak, you certainly shouldn’t change the water because beans taste better when cooked in the water in which they were soaked.
The one possible weak link in this bit of culinary heresy is that the experiments compared only cooking time and flavour, and not what we’ll politely call “digestibility.”
In her book, Jenner was a little less polite. She wrote that Agriculture Canada’s food advisory division recommended cooking beans in fresh water because it prevented flatulence.
So, if we decide that we’re just not ready to join the 21st century, we can always say we’re refusing to change to protect polite society.