If you are ever really broke and wonder how on earth you’re going to feed yourself cheap, may I kindly introduce you to Black Beans, Chicken, and Rice? Three leg quarters, two cups of brown rice, and a cup of black beans is enough for me to eat lunch on three days this week. That will cover the whole week, because today is a holiday, and on Thursdays Subway has a special running so I’m done planning lunch. I’m willing to bet I had less than ten bucks on the whole thing.
The crock pot is quite possibly the greatest invention of all time, next to the wheel, the discovery of how to build a fire, and USB ports in vehicles. In warmer weather, which covers just about every month except the three months of Christmas here in The South, a crock pot does put out a lot of heat for a long time, but I like that too. Yeah, it’s more than a little weird, but there’s something that makes me feel like I’m doing something in the kitchen when I sweat over it. It's like sex; you have to make that effort to get things right. Then again, I’m not running the AC yet so I’m sweating anyway. It’s going to take the temperatures getting into the mid-nineties during the day and the mid-seventies at night before I cave and turn on the AC. Last year I almost made it into July before having to crank in the cold air.
This morning about four or so I couldn’t sleep, I knew the dogs would awaken and demand food soon anyway, so I got up and let the Girls Go Wild, and got the crock pot out. One cup of black beans, enough water to cover them and have a half inch above them, and the crock pot on Low. I set the timer on the stove for seven hours. At eleven the beans were still a little hard so I turned the heat up, added two cups of brown rice, a little salt, and put the chicken in a pot to boil it for about an hour or so. After the chicken boiled I slipped it in with the beans and rice and mixed everything up together. Another two hours at low heat and that’s lunch for the rest of the week.
My first apartment didn’t have AC. It was a furnace in Summer but I got used to it. The kitchen had one of those strip thermometers that changed colors on the fridge and when it went totally black that meant it was over one hundred degrees. I have no idea what happened to that thermometer but I do know for about three months out of the year it stayed as black as night. This is a much cooler house and I have ceiling fans as well. As long as the inside temp stays away from ninety I’m pretty much okay during the day. At night it has to be below eighty-five inside for me to sleep. So far so good.
The chicken and rice and bean are beginning to smell really, really, good. I do a lot of my cooking by sense of smell. When it smells right then it’s done. That may not be very accurate for most but it’s never failed me. My spaghetti sauce is one of those things that tells me when it is ready. It’s the garlic. When the garlic is done then the sauce is done. How could anything be done until the garlic says so? Most people toss the garlic in with everything else but to me it has to come near the end. Garlic is underused and overcooked mostly. It’s misunderstood as well. Most people consider it a spice but for me it is more of a spiritual thing; it’s like Holy Water at a baptism or wine on the third date. It’s more than just there with everything else it is sometimes what makes everything else what it is.
An aromatic spice with a distinctive bitter flavor and strong, warm aroma due to its abundant oil content. Cumin "seeds" are actually the small dried fruit of an annual plant in the parsley family. Native to the Mediterranean, cumin is hotter to the taste, lighter in color, and larger than caraway, another spice it's sometimes confused with. Sold whole or ground, the seeds come in three colors: amber, white or black. Amber is most widely available, but the black has such a complex flavor it should not be substituted for the other two. Cumin is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern, Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines, and is one of the main ingredients in curry powder.
I never make black beans and rice with chicken without Cumin, Black Cumin at that. I have no idea how much to use or how much I do use but I know it’s a lot according to the people who watch me cook. Not so much salt, and sea salt at that, but Black Pepper, yes, please. I have no idea what human beings did before Black Pepper, freshly ground Black Pepper, was discovered but I’m pretty sure we weren’t very happy at that point.
I always make enough rice to give the dogs some mixed in with their food. Lucas loved rice and would have drool-icles coming from both sides of his mouth as I cooked. You have to admire that sort of food focus. It’s the kind of attention grabber women had on me in High School but I didn’t realize it for what it was worth at the time. Youth may be wasted on the young but rice was never wasted on Lucas.
I don’t regret the decisions that led me to be this broke for this long. I’m not sure I will ever be as solvent as I once was but there are lessons to be learned in loss. You can try and fail and the fail not be as important as the try. You can trade everything you own for that one chance to save a dog’s life and even if it doesn’t go as planned, even if all you bought with everything you could put into it, fifteen months, fifteen fucking months, it is still the best trade I have ever made in my entire life.
I’m still saving lives and still have dogs and if Brown Rice and Black Beans and Chicken is what I eat with my memories I could not be happier.