26 October 2009

Sift your Beans

They were fairly slammed today, so Cliff asked me to soak him some chickpeas, as we were out of hummus. He said, "And make sure to sift through to make sure there's nothing extra in there. You do sift your beans, right?" "Of course", I answered guiltily. The short answer is, of course. The long answer is, of course I do, when it's more than what I make at home (maybe one or two cups at a time). If it's that small an amount, I'm bound to catch whatever it is that's foreign, because I don't buy chickpeas in mass bulk (more than 10 pounds at a time would be too much for home use, and when you buy in very large bulk as restaurants do, there's going to be ... extras in the beans, regardless of how good your vendor is) either when I'm transferring the beans to my containers that I store them in (juice bottles, etc.) or when I pour the beans into the bowl for soaking, or when I drain them and transfer them to a pot. When you're using such tiny quantities, you'll catch on soon enough.

However, if you buy your beans loose, or in large quantity, or in bulk, or aren't constantly vigilant about everything, you'll want to sift through the beans. In fact, come to think of it, my saying that it's a small quantity at home is actually just an excuse for my laziness. I tried to justify my at-home laziness by saying that it's a small quantity. But who do I have to justify to? Not Boss Man. As far as he's concerned, when I'm here, I sift the beans. What I do or don't do at home doesn't make a difference to him.

No. I was trying to justify it to myself, because I know full well that I should know better. And I do know better! There are few things as unpleasant as being interrupted from a happy tasty food daze by a giant slab of stone cracking your jaws in half. No thanks! It's just that it takes all that extra time.

By the by, it doesn't take all that long.

Get your dry beans measured. Then, grab a cookie sheet. Dump the measured beans onto the cookie sheet. Ta-da! All the beans are in one layer! This means that giving everything a once-over takes all of 3 seconds. If there's any rocks, you'll find them now. Let me tell you from multiple personal experience, that it's far better to spend the all of five seconds it'll take you to sift through the beans than to chomp down on a big, painful rock, and feel your bridge work crack through, and your orthodontist silently cheer as he sees yet another year at the country club paid in full from your laziness. Then you have that bother of trying to figure out who's responsible for this, and you'll never talk again. Just avoid the trouble in the long run.

I spent the extra five seconds on it, and it worked out just great. No rocks, and no wasted time.

So why was I skipping that step all these years? Same reason you all do. You know in your heart of hearts that it's the right thing to do. And you expect (as you should) restaurants to do so. And we do. We're thorough about anything going into your food. All the leaves are washed and re-washed and inspected for ... special prizes that mother nature left behind, all the beans are sifted by hand, the fruit is carefully washed and inspected for more prizes from nature, and you're getting nice, clean food. So why don't we respect ourselves enough to do it at home? You're going to all that effort to cook for yourself. Might as well spend the extra five seconds on those minor details that save your teeth and your sanity.

The first time you chomp down on a bit of dirt in your food, you'll think back to this long, drawn out diatribe, and you'll thank me for reminding you (and myself) that it's important to pay attention to the details.