Today I took some time to do a very simple task. I stood in the kitchen, at the window where the light falls beautifully in the afternoon and shelled some beans. It took me about half an hour to do. The beans were in the freezer, stored after their first shelling from one of the abundant summer harvests. Organic and grown via the many dedicated hands of a community action group that we’re part of, they were a treasure waiting to give us a taste of summer sun and green fields on a rainy autumn day. The day I shelled them and stored them, all green and glistening with goodness, I knew they would appear later in the year like a little love note to my future self.
To double shell the beans, I firstly ran a finger nail along the seam and peeled back the green thread to split open the pod, then ran my thumb along the inside of the pod to push out the beans into a dish. The beans went into the freezer until today when I boiled some water on the stove and let them cook for about three minutes, then strained them straight into a colander and blanched them with cold water to stop them over-cooking.
The next part of the task is my favourite, years ago this would have driven me mad, I wouldn’t have had the patience to shell every individual bean by hand. Now I both appreciate and enjoy the process. In Andalucía it’s normal to add the beans directly to a stew with their skin on as they turn soft during the slow cooking process. I’ve often been asked why I bother with the fiddly bit of a second shelling, but I love the tender green treasures that pop out from between your fingers, and often only half of them make it to the final bowl because they’re so delicious I eat them as I go along, sometimes having to stop myself for fear of not having any left to put on the final plate!
Apart from the taste, either served as they are or stirred in with some olive oil and fried garlic, the process of shelling is beautifully meditative. This repetitive action of piercing the skin with your nail then popping the beans out into the bowl, is not only satisfying but also relaxing, calming and focusing. Time passes so quickly. Was I thinking about something? Did I go somewhere in my mind? I’m not sure, but my hands were busy so my conscious mind was taken care of. Then for that half an hour I was completely free and relaxed. It was worth the time and care because when I sat down to eat the beans with my partner I was less tense than when I’d started, my mind had had a rest and felt rejuvenated, my fingers had delighted in the sensation of the textures and I was able to give thanks and eat a delicious bowl of tasty goodness.