Between Kansas and Colorado there is a hand painted sign on a train depot by the side of Highway 70 that reads “Happiness is a Crock of Beans.” We passed it a few years ago on the pilgrimage from Florida back to California after Shaun’s graduation. It felt so affirming at the time. I scribbled it on the back of a receipt and shoved it in my wallet, saving it. Savoring it.
Turns out, if I have learned much about happiness in the three years since that road trip, it has probably been precisely that it’s all just a crock of beans. It’s simple. Unfussy. It lacks elaborate construction or planning. Just a crock of beans. You get where I’m going with the metaphor, right? I have experienced more joy and collected the best memories in the simple presence of a cup of coffee, deck of cards, and a few good friends and family than in the throws of any other world-class adventure – and believe me, I’ve been spoiled with more than my fair share of them. We move so fast sometimes trying to get from point A to point B in order to become more successful, get more done, and be more “happy” that we forget that all we really need to be content is an old rocker on the back porch with the dog, a glass of wine, and a hand to hold.
We all have our crock of beans, right? Those moments, those things that force us to slow down and really feel satiated by the goodness in our lives. They’re always there, waiting for us to see them, to have a good soak in them. As I begin to lay the stones for the next chapter in my life, I try and recall my own “crock of bean” moments of times past to help guide the little bits of the path that I actually have control over. Where were you? What were you doing? Who was there? If I can answer these questions with honesty, I know they will not lead me astray.
This is a perfect light dish for this unseasonably warm winter. Crispy raw celery and onions with a peppery kick from the cress reminds of sandals in spring. Do yourself a favor and use dried beans if you can manage. They taste leaps and bounds better plus there’s no risk of BPA from those pesky cans. I used Garbanzo, Great Northern, and Cranberry Beans, but use what you have. Skip black and pinto varieties.
Mixed Bean Salad
- 6 cups soaked and cooked beans
- 6-8 stalks celery
- 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1 head watercress
- 3 lemons
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- salt/pepper to taste