If you didn’t know beans are serious stuff, you just don’t know beans!
Beans have been disparaged for years as “poor food.” Worse, during periods of economic boom and rapid urbanization, culinary leaders neglect legumes and pulses as remnants of the peasant past.
Back to the Future
Today beans are enjoying a fresh wave of popularity. In 2020, as the world locked down in the face of Covid, many families rediscovered—or even discovered for the first time!—how to prepare meals from dried beans. The warm reception for Washington Post food writer, Joe Yonan’s well-timed cookbook, Cool Beans, is a sign of this sea change.
While the crisis may have taken us all by surprise, the reevaluation of the noble bean has been a long time coming. Students of the links between human and planetary health have been highlighting its value as an ingredient for our health, and our environment: Being rich in antioxidants and fiber and free of cholesterol, beans help to prevent cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Legumes also require relatively little land to cultivate and by improve the health of the soil through nitrogen fixation.
Putting Beans Center Stage
Unfortunately, diets and agricultural priorities around the world are all-too-often focused on meat, processed foods, and complicated cold chains. But that’s going to change! Slow Food is finding creative ways to bring beans to the center of the debate, and to our plates.
Beginning in Italy, a group of bean farmers from Slow Food Presidia and Communities have organized around the idea that beans deserve special attention. The Slow Beans network is united by a common goal: to safeguard legumes as an agricultural priority and to increase their consumption.
We at Slow Beans defend, maintain and spread leguminious biodiversity: We are aware of its intrinsic value, and bear witness to the inherent pleasure of varied tastes and different gastronomic cultures that revolve around local legumes. We cultivate relationships and knowledge!
This network is cultivating relationships via creative actions that transform popular perceptions of beans, considering them more than just “simple vegetable proteins.” One creative expression of this “leguminious biodiversity” was organized over a decade ago in Capannori, Tuscany, by the Lucca Compitese Orti Lucchesi convivium: The “Fagioladi” (the Olympic Games of Beans). And as much as we miss the spirit of semi-serious competition between legume-based dishes prepared by producers, we don’t despair—laughter and conviviality will return again! This may be Slow Beans’ greatest impact: creating the spaces to cultivate a community.
Let It Bean!
In this new epoch of cascading crises, Meatless Monday has joined forces with Slow Beans to mobilize municipalities as a novel point of entry to leverage endangered legumes for the benefit of human and soil health, reduce meat consumption and water use, take pride in local flavors and restore value to traditional knowledge.
Let It Bean! challenges local mayors to become Slow Beans ambassadors and take concrete steps to promote legumes, such as adopting Meatless Monday. The objectives of the initiative are to:
- Incentivize municipalities to promote more sustainable and climate-friendly diets through the support of local bean producers, as well as via Meatless Monday;
- Increase general public knowledge about beans and their nutritional properties;
- Promote the sale of beans online, and foster solidarity between municipalities within Slow Bean network.
If these ideas resonate with your own taste of place, traditional bean cultivation, and creative economics to boost local markets and food leadership, join us!
Visit Slow Beans at Terra Madre marketplace – Online marketplace available soon!
Watch episodes of Let It Bean here
Learn more about Let It Bean and how to invite your mayor to take part in the challenge.
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Become a Meatless Monday Ambassador for Slow Food.
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