Past Blasts: A Hystery of the Bean
I’m finding some funny stuff from years past, and from my very first “home page” back when that was the latest thing for everyone to have. Remember when plaid backgrounds with flashing yellow text on top was “in”? I had one in the then-infant Geo-Cities. I don’t think there were more than a few thousand people on it when I staked my claim somewhere in Athens. (I quit Geo-Cities later, when they wanted to stick first the watermark and then advertising on the free pages.) Wow… it was 1995, and the rest, as they say, is hystery.
*****(original 1995 webpage content, except for the photos. I can’t find my old ones.)****
WARNING–I have taken extraordinary artistic license with Latin names in the text below, although I believe my science is fairly sound, if one takes it with a grain of salt. This is a halfway serious site, you know.
A Hystery of the Bean, Part I
by Professor Terzap LeGume
The Bean is a Native American plant, probably originating in South or Central America. (For all intents and purposes “America” shall henceforth refer to the entire continent, North, Central and South. “Indians” and “Native Americans” shall refer to Northern tribes as well as Central and South American ones. ) There were Beans growing long before any Indians appeared, which is probably why some Native American tribes regard the bean as a sacred plant.
The ancestral bean is known as Phaseolus ovallatus. This translates into “obviously fazed us”, since scientists are not quite certain if “the” ancestral bean found in the hills of Guatemala and Costa Rica is really “the” ancestral bean. (Besides, none of these scientists probably speaks fluent Latin unless they are also Roman Catholic priests from Rome.) The ancestral Phaseolus ovallatus arose from the South American Wild Bean, or Phaseolus aboriginalis. (Translates into: it fazed us to come up with an original name for this species.) These beans, with their small black seeds, sent strong runners all over the South American continent warning other Wild Beans that the mighty Incas, Aztecs and Mayas would civilize them, forcing them to grow in gardens and fields, where eventually they would be turned into black bean burritos without a single trace of free wildness.
The black beans of the South American subcontinent (including coffee and cocoa, not true beans but threatened nonetheless) tried to rally together to fight the enroaching menace of civilization, but to no avail. Today, Coffee beans are beaten and roasted and brewed into submission. The poor cocoa plant is so processed as to be unrecognizable. And Phaseolus is stumped, reduced to grocery store shelves in bags or cans. This is why most modern Beans are known as Phaseolus vulgaris, since they hang out with other unpopular commodities like brown rice and bulgher wheat in dim grocery aisles, muttering darkly in Latin as shoppers glance at them, shudder, and hurry on to the bright plastic-wrapped processed foods in the freezer section.
Back to our Hysterical perusal of Phaseolus. Not only were Beans enslaved by the original American natives, but the Spanish and Portuguese, once they reached the Americas, enslaved the Indians along with their beans. Like many conquered, enslaved peoples, Beans were also forced from their ancestral homelands and taken to other parts of the known world. Unlike many Spanish and Portuguese, however (and for that matter, Incas, Mayas, and Aztecs), Phaseolus and other associated species adapted to the temperate climates of the Old and New Worlds, where they thrived and nurtured millions of people, animals, and cropland. (True Facts: Beans and other legumes enrich the soil with nitrogen. Beans yield the one of the highest nutritive food values per acre–high in protein, high in complex carbohydrates, high in fiber, a good source of Iron, Potassium, other trace elements as well as vitamins–than many other field crops. All that and low in fat, too! Plus the bean plant itself, after the beans are removed, is a super source of highly digestible animal fodder.)
Since Beans belong to the Pea family of legumes (Fabaceae), they are good for your kidneys and bladder. Thus, the kidney bean was named. Old-time healers who did not understand Latin names or the translations of Latin names assumed just because this bean was the shape and color of a kidney that the plant would have medicinal effects on that organ. Humph! Little did they realize the Kidney Bean also had beneficial effects on the blood and heart and bowels. Why isn’t there are Heart Bean? The Garbanzo is sort of heart shaped. Or a Bowel Bean? Sometimes Beans look like…never mind. Happily for modern folk medics, the Bean’s benefits for Hiccups, Acne, Eczema and Rheumatism are also known. There is no Hiccup Bean or Pimple Bean, instead there are more pleasing and fortunate appellations like: Pink, Cranberry, Navy, Pinto and Great Northern…
(to be continued!)
This never was continued. However… can you imagine how world history–not to mention international cuisine–would have been changed without beans? Potatoes? Peppers, hot and sweet? Tomatoes? And…. chocolate? It’s a smorgasbord of potential for spec fic authors who like to write alternative history! Forget the zombie apocalypse! EARTH WITHOUT CHOCOLATE will be the next biggest thing to Hunger Games!