My church celebrated its 22nd anniversary this past summer with our annual picnic, which we always associate with incredible food; there are two men in our congregation that smoke tri-tip for this gala. (They stay up all night smoking our Thanksgiving turkeys as well, which is by far the best turkey I have ever experienced.) This year our outdoor celebration also boasted of fried chicken, not to be outdone by everyone’s glorious side-dish contributions.
Church gatherings are famous for their magnificent spreads; our congregation is no exception, for we have a host of great cooks, even though our body is small. Indeed, we eat well!
I always make the following bean salad for our anniversary; it is not only quick, but keeps well in the sun. May you find this a great dish for potlucks also.
Normally I don’t use many canned goods in my food preparations; they, however, facilitate the ease of this excellent recipe. The history of canning is of great interest to me. It began with a Nicolas Appert, a creative Frenchman with ordained skills-promised attributes we all get to exercise.
Our genius started out as a brewer; then, became a steward for the aristocracy; finally, he ended up as a confectioner during the Napoleonic era. When France and Britain were at war in 1795, Napoleon, seeking a way to best preserve food for his army, offered 12,000 francs to the winner of a contest for such a discovery. As a confectioner, Appert’s mind had already been developing such a solution, for he had been pursuing the foremost means in lengthening the shelf-life of fruits, by improving on the traditional candying and drying processes. This formal opportunity brought his ideas to fullness; thus, he won the prize with his method in which he preserved fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, partridges, chestnuts, grape must, even the vegetable truffles. Our originator partially cooked the foods, before placing them in wide-mouth bottles; then, by corking and boiling the bottles in a water bath, he expelled the damaging air. This technique of food preservation has remained in tact throughout the centuries. 1
Nevertheless, this hero unfortunately died a pauper, for by accepting the prize he lost the chance to patent his design. (As an aside, I speak with the authority given me, in Jesus Christ’s name: “Enemy of our souls, you can steal none of our rewards!”) 2
In 1810, Appert published a book detailing his canning procedure, which the award had prohibited him from patenting; just months later, a patent using his method for preserving foods surfaced in England. There, however, his corked glass container became a more durable, tin-coated iron canister, which came with instructions for opening with a chisel and hammer. 3
By 1849, this technology for food preservation improved with machine-made, can tops and bottoms. Prior to this, two skilled workers produced 120 cans a day; now two people could daily make 1500 cans, and these machine-operators were unskilled at that. 4
These tin cans inspired what was the slow advent of can openers, an invention that remained quite unsatisfactory from its first appearance in 1855, until our modern device appeared in the 1980’s; this latter, a side-opening implement, uses two wheels in tandem, one rotating, the other serrated, removing the lid, while leaving no sharp edges. These days we take this relatively new, inexpensive tool for granted; as a result of the sped of modern technology, often even this is not required, for now many cans come with pop-tops. 5
Today can-making is a major economic force; in the United States alone, more than 130 billion cans are generated yearly, making this an eight billion dollar industry. 6 The majority-about four times more-of these canned goods are fizzy drinks, such as sodas and beer, rather than food. 7
Hardcore cooks can soak and boil dried beans for my salad; nevertheless most of us choose to thank Nicolas Appert, for his obedience to press in with his quick mind. As a result, we have canned beans and corn for this blessed recipe.
- Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), pp. 219-221.
- Ibid., p. 220.
- Ibid., p. 221.
- James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 242
- Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012), pp. 221, 221.
- Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork (New York: Basic Books, 2012) , p. 223.
Avocado, Bean, and Corn Salad Yields: about 1 1/2 quarts. Total prep time: 25 min. Note: this salad is spicy; for a milder version, use less garlic and Jalapeno peppers; spiciness always lessens in intensity after a day of refrigeration; it is best to make this ahead for flavors to meld.
2-15 ounce cans of beans, drained (Simple Truth Organic Tri-Bean Blend is ideal; available inexpensively at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores.)
1-15 ounce can of sweet corn (Trader Joe’s brand is excellent.)
1/2 cup chopped red or sweet onion (For easy chopping, see step 2.)
5 large cloves of fresh garlic, or to taste, minced coarsely (This amount provides a fair amount of bite; adjust for desired garlic flavor.)
2 Jalapeno peppers, or to taste, minced
1/2 cup salsa (Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica is ideal.)
1 tsp salt, or to taste (Real Salt is important for health; available in health section at local supermarket.)
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste
2 small avocados, chopped
- Drain beans and corn in a colander, while proceeding to next step.
- For easy chopping, with root in tact, score a large onion with slices across top, cutting 2/3’s of the way down into it; turn onion and cut slices in opposite direction; shave pieces off end (see above photo); place in a large bowl.
For exceptional efficiency, peel garlic with a green, rubber garlic peeler from Bed, Bath, and Beyond (see this in photo at beginning of recipe). May chop cloves coarsely with a sharp knife, or for quick preparation, place in a food processor, pressing pulse button repeatedly; stop and scrape down sides once; do not over chop, as a coarse grind adds bite to salad (see photo); place in bowl with onions.
- Cut Jalapeno peppers in half length-wise, scoop out seeds with a spoon, mince fine, and add to bowl (see photo below). When finished, be sure to wash hands thoroughly before touching eyes.
- Stir salsa, salt, and pepper into onions/Jalapeno peppers.
- Gently blend beans and corn into this mixture; do not over mix, as this will make the beans mushy. If making ahead, refrigerate at this point.
Before serving, chop avocados, and carefully fold into bean mixture. Serve with pleasure.