Thursday, January 5, 2012

50 Women Game Changers (in Food) #29 Betty Fussell - Green Bean Salad



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. 

Miranda - Mangoes and ChutneyJeanette - Healthy LivingApril - Abby Sweets


33 comments:

janet said...

She's an interesting woman and so right- anyone, anywhere will talk to you about food!

The Mom Chef said...

what a fantastic and fascinating person. I do enjoy green beans, but if I'm having them cooked, I do want to know that they've really been cooked; not mushy, but probably more soft than you enjoy them.

That being said, the salad looks fantastic. I like your substitution of champagne vinegar very much. Thank you for the introduction to Betty and for the recipe.

Lyndsey said...

So true...cookbooks document a culture! I/We love green beans like this. I brought some green beans to Christmas dinner...that were blanched first then finished in a fry pan with oil and dijon, orange peel, almonds. The first year my friends (from South Africa) had us for Christmas, asked if I would bring the green bean casserole...well I've never made GBC before and had to look on the can to get the recipe, and couldn't bring myself to make it the way the recipe called for with canned beans and such. They laughed and said I can't believe the only American and she's never made GBC. This year I was worried that they were too crunchy and nobody would like it, but they were all gone in no time. :)

Sometime simple is the best way!

Anne said...

Betty Fussell is such a dynamic and fascinating women. Her love of cooking shines! I love to read cookbooks. Last night, I looked at a recipe for salmon and changed some of the ingredients. It was delicious!
Smiles to you!

Aarthi said...

This looks yummy..You have made it awesome.

Aarthi
http://yummytummy-aarthi.blogspot.com/

Torviewtoronto said...

Interesting
Salad looks wonderful

Miranda said...

A great game changer indeed. A very simple green been dish - love the lemon.

Mary said...

I must give the salad a try. I love her books and I love how you have featured them here. She is a remarkable woman and you have done her proud. Have a great day, Claudia.

Lynda said...

I agree that green beans shouldn't be cooked in cream of mushroom soup ,although I've eaten it that way many times. It is very popular here, but I much prefer tendercrisp beans the way you have prepared them. They are addictive when they are fresh. Love the ease of your preparation Claudia.
Have a wonderful day!

Fresh Local and Best said...

She is the type of woman that I strive to be like, but sometime am inhibited by my own fears. Simple and fresh is THE way to start the year. This is a good recipe to remind us of that.

Susan Lindquist said...

Yum! Green beans! She's so right about not needing too eat out when you can produce a gorgeous meal fast with fresh and simple ingredients! I have used her two cookbooks, Eating In and Food In Good Season for years ... I always wanted to meet her, as I think she'd be a wonderful conversationalist!

Kathy said...

Thanks for posting the video...Ms. Fussel is certainly interesting to listen to and lovely to see. So accomplished. Loved your post and your wonderful green beans.

Beth said...

I love simple food too. And I love green beans with crunch! This recipe looks terrific.

Barbara GF said...

Great green bean recipe with panache, Claudia. I will certainly be checking out this literary culinary lady!

Tina said...

I do need to come back and read more about Betty, glad you gave me a video as well as links to more info on her.
Your green beans do instill the thought that fresh and simple can be the best way to go when preparing a dish. Great post!

Reeni said...

I like the way this lady thinks! I don't know why I never heard of her before. She is very interesting and I love that she has a lot of opinions. Fresh green beans are the best - this may be simple but it would make me super happy!

Pegasuslegend said...

stunning woman.. I really love the simplicity of these beans, I love the nuts in here. Very good read loved it,!

Jeanette said...

Great write up on Betty Fussell. Love how simple and healthy this recipe of hers is, just as I like it.

Loveforfood said...

Oh my goodness! I could totally see myself gorging on these beauties =)

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Sometimes simple is the best and this is one of those times. I feel summer coming on.

Barbara said...

Simple is usually the tastiest, Claudia! And this is a perfect example. The walnuts and walnut oil with the crist-tender green beans sounds wonderful. Great write-up on Betty!

Rosemary said...

I'm one of those who devours cookbooks like racy novels! I've never read a Betty Fussell book; now I will. Love that last quote. And the beans, of course, delightfully simple.

Lizzy Do said...

Healthy and delicious! Perfect January fare!

PS...we got your warm weather, and now temps are plummeting again....ah, winter....

Balvinder Ubi said...

I found you from Cucina's blog and loved to read about Betty Fussell.I did not know her. Glad that you put up a video of her interview. I agree that food is the genuine part of our culture and everybody loves to talk something about it. And Internet has given the voice to our imagination.

Last but not least,I like your take on green beans with toasted walnuts.

Taryn (Have Kitchen, Will Feed) said...

Looks great - can't wait to try it when beans are available up here. (Even if I am partial to the green beans in mushroom soup casserole!)

Rebecca Subbiah said...

great post and i agree green beans love being served this way awesome

sophiesfoodiefiles said...

OOOh Claudia!

Thank you for introducing me to this lovely & leading lady of the USA on food & culture! I never heard from her before!!

A lovely yet easy tasty green beans recipe!
The video was helpfull too! :)
I wish you & your family a lovely, happy & healthy 2012 filled with joy & good food! :)

Heather @ girlichef.com said...

I immediately thought of you when I read that it was turned into a play! And I also love the sound of these green beans...and nothing wrong with picking simple, as sometimes that's all we need! =)

beti said...

it totally looks simple and delicious

Roz said...

Claudia, I am SO with you on the topic of green beans and simplicity. It is OK to post something simple and delicious on your blog, sweetie! We, Italians, are know for our way of preparing delicious food with simplicity. I grew up on green beans like this, as well as beets like this, tomatoes and cukes like this, etc.! I could sit and eat the whole damn bowls! And I tried that cream of mushroom bean casserole ONCE, but never again will it have a place in my home! Let me know about your green soup; I'm going to go find your recipe! I just want a new cleaner inner me!

FOODESSA said...

There's that practical saying...we're attracted by who we are...or at the very least certainly intend to become one day.
Betty is an incredible character...much to be admired. Are you seeing where I'm going with this Claudia? ;o)

Simplicity should be celebrated!
Great post...thanks.

Flavourful wishes,
Claudia

Juliana said...

Great post Claudia...I love everything simple and this green bean is just on the target...
Hope you have a wonderful week :-)

Lori Lynn said...

Love her quote on food and that darling 2008 photo.
LL