As a child I loathed broad beans. They were squat, flatulent vegetable matter. Bowls of these slimy skinned pods filled our fridge every spring. We would spend Saturday afternoons shelling them, and then their particularly earthy odour would colonise the house as they boiled. And even more than I hated what they looked like and smelled like, I hated their taste. A rubbery, musty, grey-green yuk.
Then, about two weeks ago, I ordered a pasta in a pub, and there in a beautiful formation, atop a coil of spaghetti, sat a handful of broad beans. And they weren’t encased in the wrinkled vegetable sausage skin that I remembered. They were smooth and small and a deep mossy green. Still, I loath broad beans, so I was about to send them back to the kitchen when the inner adult cajoled, “Taste them. You never know.”
So I did. They were delicious. Surely these were not broad beans. I couldn’t believe it. Had my taste buds really changed so much since I was seven?
And then just a few days ago, a friend revealed the secret. Double Shelling. Take off the first layer of furry green skin. Boil for two minutes. Run under cold water to cool. Then shell them again. Pop them out of their slimy second skin. Broad beans need to be double shelled. How had my parents not known this? Or had I simply refused to stay around for the second shelling. When I followed these instructions exactly, out popped these little emeralds; soft and nutty, a bowlful of succulent heaven. I wanted to eat them all, there and then. A feast of broad beans. I should have eaten them all there and then, but that would have been excessive. Instead I decided to make a Pasta Primavera. It would be just like the pasta I had had in the pub, but better. It would be the perfect spring meal.
So I peeled and chopped and fried. I had, of course, not been able to resist buying leek and asparagus and zucchini, as well as broad beans, at the grocer’s. And there were the green beans, the cherry tomatoes, and the Spanish onion, that were hiding in the bottom of the fridge. I threw them into the pan along with the jar of anchovies that I keep in the pantry for moments just like this. All that was needed was the addition of a whole packet of brown pasta. And wallah! Dinner! Well maybe. I never thought I’d say this, but you can have too many vegetables. Especially in a pasta.
It was a disaster. It was inedible. It was disgusting. There were far too many pieces chasing each other around the bowl. Nothing bound them together. Each of these ingredients separately would have been divine, a taste plate of spring in all its green newness. But combined. Yuk. It lacked balance. As did the fact that because I’d made so much of it, we had to eat it for two nights in a row. Yuk.
The horses of excess lead to the palace of wisdom. Or so they say. I can only hope it’s true. I don’t like that I got so excited about a vegetable. I don’t like that I had to put every vegetable I could find into the pasta pot all at once. I don’t like that because I don’t like to throw away food, I had to eat it all. What was wrong with me? Why did everything have to be done on such a large scale? What ever happened to less is more? I needed to calm down, regain balance, find my equilibrium. I went straight to the library and dragged home a stack of self-help books and started to read them.
The next day I went to yoga. I was lying on my mat, breathing deeply, when my lovely yoga teacher mentioned the Spring Equinox. On Monday morning at 6:45am, day and night will fall equal. I drew in a long, slow breath. I let out a long, slow breath. Just the thought of the Spring Equinox calmed me down, made me feel balanced again. I felt my equilibrium return. Maybe I wouldn’t need to read all those self help books after all. Maybe on Monday I could buy a few broad beans, boil and double shell them, and eat them very simply, just by themselves. No other vegetables. No pasta. Maybe with just a little olive oil. Perhaps some salt and pepper. Oh, and a piece of freshly baked sourdough bread. With a glass of wine, or two….
Loved it. Beautifully written as usual.
Broad beans are a favourite of Maltese too, and we peel the extra skin off, boil and mash with garlic and olive oil to make a very traditional dip called bigilla. Looks awful brown and lumpy but tastes divine. I am making some next week. We leave in less than 4 weeks……time flies.