Lately, I’ve been eating a lot of beans. And by “lately,” I mean my entire life. The truth is, I am a huge beaner, and I always have been. I’ve never been very partial to rice, but life just doesn’t seem complete or good without beans.

I don’t really care what kind of bean or in what form, but their presence in my life is one of the few constants I can speak of. So while I can understand why the term “beaner” has been used as an insult in the past, I can’t help but identify myself that way.

Of course I love pinto beans, refried, the best. But, frijoles negros, either refried or not, are also great. I’ve eaten my share of beans with different garnishes and salsas, too. Guacamole and crema are good ones, although grated cheese and pico de gallo may also be quite exquisite. And of course I’ll eat beans by themselves, with tortillas or chips, even just smelling them sometimes makes me feel good.

What I love most about beans, though, is the deep cultural connection I have with them As I mentioned, because they have been a constant presence in my life, there are so many memories attached to them. The happiness I felt when my mother would scoop them out of the pot, the curiosity I felt the first time I ate frijoles negros at my Salvadoran best friend’s house, the homecoming within me every time I eat them after a hiatus, the pleasure and pride I feel when I cook them in my abuelo’s olla.

In this sense, beans mean so much more to me than physical nourishment — they represent spiritual nourishment. I can’t imagine a life without them, a life without the meals that revolve around them, the ceremony that goes into their preparation, or the jokes about their inevitable after effects, for that matter. Beans become a constant in your life, to the point that their presence is not questioned, and so their absence is felt immediately.

And so to me, when I joke about being a beaner, it’s not really completely a joke. I embrace the idea that I’m a beaner, in the sense that I cannot live without beans. It’s a way I’ve come to understand a little better who I am and what my culture is. Beans have not only sustained me, but my parents, grandparents and countless generations before them. That’s a lot of power to pack into a little bean.

Copyright 2012 Sara Inés Calderón

@SaraChicaD Skype: SaraChicaD

la vida es dura, pero es bella