Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Black Bean Soup

When I was little, every few months we would drive to the Union City Cafeteria for Cuban food. My father spent many years of his life in Cuba, so in a way I suspect that it was like coming home for him when he couldn't return to the country; for me, it was a little slice of heaven, access to the world my father left behind when he immigrated to the U.S.  I loved the big steam trays filled with platanos, yuca, arroz moro, and lechon asado. One of us always got a bowl of frijoles negros with a side of raw onions.  For dessert, there was flan, or tocino de cielo, or churros with the thickest, richest chocolate you ever tasted.

To this day, one of my favorite soups is black bean soup. It's easy, it's good for you, and it's comfort food: it reminds me of many blissful meals at the Union City Cafeteria, and my father, joking in Spanish with the tanned white-aproned men behind the steam trays.

As an added benefit, according to research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry,  black beans are as rich in antioxidant compounds  as grapes and cranberries, fruits long considered antioxidant superstars. And--this matters for me--black beans are supposed to increase fertility.

Last week, I finally went to talk with my ob/gyn about our lack of luck with babymaking.  She listened to my story, told me that if my TSH numbers are right that my thyroid is not the problem, and handed me a photocopied sheet of paper with "INFERTILITY" hand-written across the top in big block letters, followed by a list fertility specialists and their contact information.  She was not willing to "undertake such a study," she told me.  I was too high-risk, too old, needed too much attention.  If I wanted to proceed, she said, I needed to see someone else.

I walked out of her office feeling so many things.  Angry.  Afraid.  Lost.  Alone.  Marked.  Was I a "study"?  Not a patient?  Not a woman?  The feelings started in my stomach and churned into my throat, like vomit.  My body had betrayed me again.  Stupid fucking body.   And what the hell kind of explanation is no explanation at all?

The universe really does have a strange sense of humor; on Monday I had not one, not two, but three friends announce their pregnancies.  Fuck that, I thought.

Today, I am feeling a little more rational, though I'm not sure what my, our, next move will be.  We have one beautiful, intelligent, funny, loving little boy.  We have already lost so much.  Why tempt fate?

For now, the safest choice seems to be simply to eat black bean soup.

Black Bean Soup

1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. diced celery
1/2 c. minced onion
1/4 c. diced red bell pepper
3 T. chopped carrot
1 T. minced garlic
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. chili powder
2 c. vegetable broth
1 c. water
3 (15 oz.) cans black beans, preferably Goya brand*, rinsed and drained

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add celery, onion, pepper, carrot.  Cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic and next three ingredients; saute 1 minutes.  Add broth, water, and beans; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.  Cool slightly.

Blend half of the soup with an immersion blender or regular blender (or blend the whole thing if you prefer).

* A few years ago, my husband and I did a very scientific double blind taste test; Goya beans came out on top for their texture (not too mushy), flavor (not too salty, not too bland), and the amount of beans per can.  I could have told him this without the experiment; when I was growing up, Goya beans were the only ones we had in our cabinet.
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