Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gigantes, and the Comfort of Home

Another house contract, gone.

This one was my fault.  Or maybe our fault.  After losing the first house, we were feeling stressed about the next possible purchase.  Time is running out if we're going to make a move this summer.  I have to get the kids settled in new schools, pack everything, unpack everything ... and that's taking into account that moving would essentially be my summer vacation.

The house was beautiful.  Backed against protected woods, custom built: someone's dream house.  There wasn't a thing wrong with it, really, except that it was at the limit of our price range (or beyond mine, perhaps).  We waffled, and waffled, sure that it wouldn't appraise for their asking price, a price I wasn't comfortable with.  Finally, we got it appraised ourselves, and it turns they were right on target.  I realized I'd been hoping it was wrong so we'd have an excuse not to buy it.

I realized that the marble floored entryway just wasn't me.  Nor were the slender columns outside and at the entry of the kitchen, or the large recessed ceiling in the bedroom, or the two dining rooms (one eat in kitchen, I guess) that you could see from the front door.  I wanted a place to host my book group, and a place for the kids to play away from us if they wanted to, somewhere that wasn't their rooms.  This wasn't it.

I wanted to like the house, in the way that sometimes you want to like a designer suit.  It's expensive and fashionable.  It's well-made and one-of-a-kind.  But really, when it comes down to it, you want your old yoga pants with the holes in them, or at the very least, something like them.  They're comfortable.  You know they fit.  Maybe, you think, you should just try on the designer clothes.  So you pull them on, realizing that they bulge a little in funny places when you sit down, make the parts about you that you don't like even less appealing.  Maybe they'll stretch, you think, wiggling.  Until you realize that if you wiggle too much, you'll ruin the suit, and you'll have nothing to wear at all.  These clothes weren't ever meant for you.

I don't like fancy cars or clothes.  I love to travel (something I desperately miss) and I do have a weakness for beautifully prepared meals, but they need not be in fancy restaurants.  In fact, one of the things I miss most about a restaurant in my old employer's town is a simple Greek bean dish called "Gigantes," giant white beans simmered forever in tomato sauce, with dill and oregano and ouzo.  I made it last night, and we ate it tonight, having cancelled the contract, and feeling a great weight lifted.  We'll keep looking, but there's nothing like home-buying to make you seriously question your values, your hopes, your dreams.  And maybe we'll end up right where we are after all, because the community is something we couldn't buy if we wanted to.


1 lb. dried gigante beans, soaked overnight or 3 cans butter beans/Great Northern beans
1/4 c. olive oil
3 c. chopped onions (about 2 medium)
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 c. (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2 T. tomato paste
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. ouzo (optional)
1 T. dried oregano (preferably Greek)
1 c. chopped fresh dill

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic, and saute until onions are turning golden.

Add the beans, chicken broth, tomatoes, vinegar, tomato paste, ouzo (if using), and oregano, and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and flavors mingle, about 2-3 hours.  Make sure the the beans don't dry out; you can add more broth if you need to, 1/2 cup at a time.  If the mixture is too soupy, you can uncover the pot and simmer the beans until tomato mixture thickens, no more than about 15 minutes.

Stir chopped fresh dill into beans, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
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  1. This dish looks lovely. Haven't ever cooked with them but always looking for new beans--thanks!

    And yes I know exactly what you mean about the yoga pants.

  2. Love those giant beans! They have that dish at a Greek restaurant here, but not by the authentic name, I guess (maybe people don't want to order a dish named "Gigantic" on a date?)
    Agree that house hunting really inspires thoughts and discussions about values, priorities, hopes & dreams for the future. I have a very detailed mental picture about our future home, and its going to be hard to put that picture aside when the reality doesn't match up (of course it won't! nothing is perfect!)
    Good luck in your search

  3. I'm sorry to hear about the stress of the search but glad you realized it wasn't the right one before you made the bigger leap. I, of course, would be delighted if you decide to stay put (or stay close at least). But, I suspect that going through this pain-in-the-ass process will at least help you fine tune what matters most for you. I will come see you wherever you go.


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