Beans and Rice, So Nice

Curried black eyed peas with fresh sprouts

Curried black eyed peas on a bed of semolina porridge. It was my favorite breakfast while studying Ayurveda in Nagpur, India.

A few years ago, I started the hashtag #kitchendisco because great food and great music go together like beans and rice. And because if you’re not having fun in the kitchen, what even are you doing in there?

Explore the cuisine and music of any country in the world and you’ll stay busy and inspired for a lifetime. There is so much to learn from the world’s cultures and you literally have the doorway to them at your fingertips.

Grab a spoon…..and some headphones….

You may not have noticed that every great culture has their own version of beans and rice–that ubiquitous, delicious combination of carbohydrates and protein that has provided sustenance for millions for millennia.

Costa Rica has picco gallo, Mexico has refried pintos and rice, India has kitchadi and daal, Jamaica has peas and rice…and on and on.

Here in New Orleans, we take great pride in our Red Beans and Rice, simmered real slow on the stove top every Monday while the wash and cleaning is being done, as the tradition goes.

I cook ’em up in the crockpot. Same, same.

In the Standard American Diet (SAD), beans typically get a bad rap, mostly due to their, ahem, gastrointestinal effects.

Meat is still the king of proteins in the U.S. so most Americans will take their rice with chicken, thank you very much.

And that’s unfortunate because beans and legumes offer some of cleanest, low-fat protein available, in addition to necessary yummies like iron and fiber.

Meat Music is magical.

If you’ve been in a cooking rut for a while–uninspired, overwhelmed, bored, and, ugh, let’s just get take out–music might be the magical ingredient you’re missing and the answer to your kitchen woes. Mix up some fresh tunes with a fresh pot of beans and rice from a country you’ve never visited….and discover the music that will uplift your soul.

For me, that country is Nigeria.

Ten years ago, when my now-husband and I were getting to know each other, we introduced each other to tons of new music. I have to credit him with transforming and expanding my musical palette more than I ever anticipated. He introduced me to the music that I now love.

Nigeria: the West African powerhouse country whose most famous musical export is undoubtedly Fela Kuti.

The drummer for Fela and Africa ’70, Tony Allen, was the only member of the band who got to improvise and write his own parts; Fela wrote the parts for everyone else. Those dope beats Tony threw down became known as Afrobeat and the rest is literally history.

Hubs and I recently got to bask in the glory of our drumming lord and legend at New Orleans’ MusicBox Village. Mr. Allen was in town just a few weeks ago jamming with our friends in Kumasi and we got to witness it.  That made for one of our most epic date nights ever, for sure.

When we’re at home and lighting up our own #kitchendisco, we usually listen to the 2002 title track “Home Cooking” at least once.

If our kitchen were to have a theme song, this would be the one.

I’m willing to bet Tony has had his country of origin’s version of beans and rice at least a time or two. But as a Southern girl from Georgia, it wasn’t until moving to New Orleans that I was introduced to the African version of beans and rice while dining at Bennachin in the French Quarter. It’s a dish that blew me away and I still swoon over because it was the first time I’d ever had black eyed peas with so much flavor. (Seriously, what is with the standard southern “seasoning” of beans with ham hock and then cooking it all to mush? I’m so over it! Respect the bean, says I!)

If you’re keen on home cooking–the song AND the stuff–try out this version of beans and rice by another fan of Bennachin’s recipe. And if you’d rather have someone else do the cooking, get thee to Bennachin!

Jam the funk out! Click here to listen to Home Cooking on Spotify.

Want a whole playlist of fresh afrobeat jams? Get on the list and I’ll send it over.