Green beans - with apologies to my adopted state - are not supposed to drown in a cream of mushroom casserole. Nor do I believe that their destiny is a puree. "Cream of green beans" does not compute. It was not what this vegetable was put on this earth for - it is made for crunch. It is made for simple. It is assertive enough that if you gussy it up with too many things, it complains.
So for this Week's Game Changer (Betty Fussell), I am going with green beans. Does a person who blogs twice a week really need to pick the simplest recipe on the planet? Yes. When it works. And while I have been simmering celeriac, beans, tomatoes, carrots, garlic and onions in a minestrone, I have been chomping away at the green beans. And it isn't going to make it to dinner, because I'm not the only one chomping away - daughter and husband have been sneaking the beans from the plate when they think I am typing and stirring.
Betty Fussell is a scholar, a writer and her connection to food is how it connects with our culture - with the American way of life. Her writings often have a feminist twist and she is not afraid to have her say on the corn industry, the beef industry, the Madison Avenue's advertising establishment or the way Americans feel about the food they consume. She is opinionated. Savvy. And in a sense a food anthropologist - but writing of the present in context of the past. Her Master's Degree is from Radcliffe, her PhD is from Rutgers and she has taught literature and film at the New School for Social Research and writing at Columbia University. Ms. Fussell wears many hats and looks exceedingly good in all of them.
(Betty Fussell photographed by Norma Jean Roy for Vogue, August 2008)
Her numerous accolades and awards can be found here. But if you really want to have some fun, read her
interviews - the leave you wanting more of the conversation. Find them here. And you have to know I loved, loved, loved that her book My Kitchen Wars was turned into a one-woman play.
For those who read cookbooks not just for recipes, I think Ms. Fussell's quote below will resonate with you.
"Cookbooks are much more than collections of instructions to get dinner on the table. From our earliest culinary records through the present (and beyond, we predict), cookbooks document culture, technology, identity, and even aspirations. What makes cookbooks a unique resource for historians, anthropologists, sociologists and others is that most cookbooks do this unconsciously; that is, in the guise of filling a practical need for practical instruction, cookbooks teach the careful reader about the values, needs, and desires of the cookbook audience."
Fussell sees no need for take-out when simple recipes such as these green beans can be made in a few minutes. She calls it bistro fare and it is my favorite way to eat. I have always been partial to bistros and trattorias - there's a simplicity that begs for "in-season" and food that does not have jet lag. I have been eating this salad for decades. Sometimes I throw on some chopped red pepper, it's also good with a few tablespoons of pesto. Below is Fussell's version. This will not work with frozen or canned string beans.
Green Bean Salad with Walnuts
2 pounds green beans
1/3 cup walnut oil (I used less)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (she also suggests 1 tbl of balsamic - I suggest champagne vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped, toasted, walnuts
Parboil the green beans for 3-10 minutes (I did 3) in salted, boiling water. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. In a small bowl, combine oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper - whisk. Pour over green beans and toss. Scatter chopped walnuts over all.
To get a sense of this exciting Game-Changer, take some time to view the video below. "The People Who Feed Us" a film by Staci Strauss & Craig McCord chatting with Betty Fussell in her NYC apartment.
Please check out what the other bloggers are doing for Week 28 of Female Chef Gourmet Game Changers. And if you want to join in the fun, e-mail Mary at One Perfect Bite. Mary started this delectable journey.