Fagioli all’Uccelletto and How a Can of Green Beans Got Him Out of the Kitchen #LitHappens
So, let me start with this: I blazed through The Road by Cormac McCarthy while I was on vacation. It was a quick read, but it was so uncomfortable. I opted not to watch the movie, despite being a huge Viggo Mortensen fan, because I didn't think I would be able to stomach some of the more graphic parts that were horrifying enough in my imagination. But I do appreciate Wendy choosing this as I doubt I ever would have picked it up otherwise.
The Road is a novel about an unnamed father and son in a post-apocalyptic world as they journey across a decimated landscape with the coast as their destination. Completely devoid of plant life and hiding from other survivors who are thugs or worse, the duo fights to survive. We get a clear picture of the father's love for his son and his incredible will to protect him.
As I mentioned there were parts that made me cringe. I will suffice it to say that the descriptions and evidence of cannibalism ensured that I would not watch the movie. But the book was well-written, deserving of its Pulitzer Prize, and thought-provoking as evidenced by our online discussion in the #LitHappens Facebook group.
Given the destroyed landscape, there is no food growing in this world. Everything the father and son eat is from cans that they have foraged from abandoned houses. "On the outskirts of the city they came to a supermarket. ....In the produce section in the bottom of the bins they found a few ancient runner beans and what looked to have once been apricots, long dried to wrinkled effigies of themselves" (pg. 22).
The father and son ate a lot of canned foods...
"He built a cookfire against a rock and they ate the last of the morels and a can of spinach" (pg. 47).
"There were five small tins of food and he chose a can of sausages and one of corn and he opened these with the little army can opener and set them at the edge of the fire and they sat watching the labels char and curl" (pg. 73).
"They sat side by side and ate the can of pears. Then they ate a can of peaches. They licked the spoons and tipped the bowls and drank the rich sweet syrup" (pg. 141).
We do not eat a lot of canned foods. In fact, a can of green beans got my husband, then boyfriend, banned from the kitchen. On a recent visit to my in-laws, I found a can of canned green beans in the pantry and we laughed and laughed and shared the story. My brother-in-law asked, "Did he serve that with Hamburger Helper?" He did!
Okay, I can admit that I wasn't kind. I should have been nicer. Twenty-five years ago my new boyfriend said that he would make dinner for us. He served me Hamburger Helper and canned green beans. As I already said, I was mean. I heckled him. Then I banished him from the kitchen forever. Some friends asked why I didn't teach him how to cook. I don't really know. I felt that wasn't my job. I taught our kids how to cook. His cooking skills were my mother-in-law's responsibilities, right?
Other friends declared Jake a genius! They wondered how they could get banished from kitchen work.
Even though #LitHappens isn't a cook from a book kinda group, I usually am inspired into the kitchen by just about anything that I read or watch. In this case, I launched from this passage.
They ate a can of white beans, passing it between them, and he threw the empty tin into the woods. Then they set out down the road again.
Admittedly, this isn't made from canned beans, but it could be!
Fagioli all’Uccelletto is a Tuscan take on baked beans, layered with aromatic garlic, earthy sage, and a rich tomato sauce. Tuscany is a region famous for its plethora of bean dishes; in fact, Tuscans themselves are sometimes called mangiafagioli, 'bean eaters.'
1 cup dried beans (cannellini are usual, but I used gigantes for this batch), soaked in salted cold water overnight
1 bulb of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 sprig of sage
1/3 cup olive oil
8 to 10 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
2 sprigs of sage, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
freshly ground salt
freshly ground pepper
Procedure Drain the soaked beans and place in a pot with the garlic bulb, 1 sprig of sage, and onion. Top up with water and season with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, approximately 35–45 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking water. Discard the onion, garlic and sage. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat olive oil in an oven-proof dish (I used my enamel cast iron braiser) and gently fry the 8 to 10 garlic cloves and 2 sprigs of sage until soft and aromatic. Do not let them brown.
Once the garlic cloves are softened, stir in the soaked beans. Stir everything gently to coat in the oil, then add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Pour in enough of the reserved bean cooking liquor to cover the beans.
Season with salt and pepper then place the lid on the casserole. Place pot in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes to thicken up the sauce, if needed. Serve hot with thickly sliced sourdough bread.