Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Musical Fruit


Why Medical Students Should Eat More Legumes

By legumes, I mean the entire family of beans, peas and lentils. If your idea of a legume is that mushy bean salad at family barbeques that nobody touches, you need to get out more and explore the fine world of beany cuisine!

1) Legumes are incredibly cheap. If you go into a food store with bulk bins, you will only pay a couple of dollars for a whole kilo of dried beans, depending on which store you go into.

Buying cheap food saves you money. Depending on your circumstances, this excess of money can buy you extra time on your rental accommodation, or beer. Personally, beer gets my vote.

2) Legumes keep you regular. Ever needed a break from PBHell? Can't stand two hours straight of petty medical students arguing about liver metabolism or the justice of socialised medicine?

Sure, these topics may be interesting on their own. However, the fastest way to make a topic unbearable is to give it to two stubborn medical students to argue over. You need an excuse to get away, even for a couple of minutes!!

Legumes will give you a valid and honest escape! I love being regular. Vegetarians and vegans are notorious for their love of discussing the poop. Eat lentils for a while, and you will soon discover why!

3) Legumes are low GI, low fat, high protein . . . blah blah blah. Yes, as medical students and future doctors, we should, in theory, aspire to be some kind of healthy example to our patients. Really. Legumes are VERY healthy.

Personally, I like to imagine that they counteract the occasional beer that I drink. Yes, I KNOW that this isn't true, but I like to think that it is. Think of it along the same lines as people believing that eating celery helps you to lose weight due to negative calories. Sure, it may be a pipe-dream, but it is a nice one!

4) Do you like baked beans on toast? Learn to make your own legume recipes, and you will have a million different variations. You might even pick up something more interesting to eat them with than stale slabs of toasted, cheap student bread!

Most Australians don't know the value of a good chilli. Imagine your favourite flavour of tin of baked beans, and multiply the taste, quality, texture and everything else by a factor of one hundred. Mmmm, chilli.

5) Remember that slow-cooker that you were given as a present years ago when you moved out of home? Lentil-based dishes are the perfect thing to cook in them, as the dish doesn't end up tasting overwhelmingly like meaty gunk, as a beef or chicken dish would if it were done in a slow-cooker.

Do up a massive batch of lentils, stick them in the freezer and have handy (and cheap) beans available any time.

Throw in all kinds of stuff into the slow-cooker (within reason) that you wouldn't know how to use in any other way. Quince paste? Into the slow cooker! Bay leaves? Slow cooker! Those extra left-over potatoes, or that box of random frozen vegetables in the freezer that you don't know what to do with? Slow cooker! A dinner that is ready when you get home and ISN'T out of a takeaway carton or frozen box is always a good thing.

6) Go exotic! Some of the best Indian cuisine is lentil-based. If you don't already know how many wonderful dishes can be based on lentils and rice, you should check it out. VERY far from boring.

7) Variety of beans. Yes, you may laugh, thinking that beans cannot possibly have the variety of, oh, steak. However, the variety of DRIED beans and lentils available in the bulk bins in the health food store is amazing.

Readers from the USA will probably not realise this, but in Australia we have VERY FEW varieties of beans available tinned. Plus, the tinned ones are always much more mushy, high in salt, and seem more bland.

Aussie readers, ever wanted to try a Black Eyed Pea? No, it really is an actual bean, not just the name of that group Fergie came from! Black beans are just pretty. And if you think that chickpeas are horrid out of a tin, try some that have been cooked properly - you won't go back!

8) Be the ultimate host! Learn to cook a legume dish properly and you may just pick up one interesting and tasty dish to prepare that you can be proud of when inviting vegetarians and vegans over for dinner.

There are a LOT of vegetarian medical students and doctors out there, and a quite few vegans to boot. The reasons behind this are both personal and cultural, but they are out there. Serve a vegan a tasty chilli for dinner when they are used to visiting people and expecting to get unflavoured raw tofu and a limp side-salad, and they will love you forever.*

Ah, I do love the humble bean.

* N.b. Don't be insulted if they are paranoid about the ingredients. Some people think that bacon is a condiment, chicken salt doesn't matter and that lard is good to add flavour. Needless to say, these ingredients DO matter to your vegetarian/vegan guest. Once bitten, twice shy.


XE said...

I cook with legumes a ton (being a veggie and all) but all mine come out of cans --- maybe I'll try the slow cooker next time!

The Girl said...


The book "Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow-Cooker" is fantastic if you can get your hands on it.

Of course, there are plenty of on-line recipes that are also fantastic (and free).

XE said...

Ooohhh, I'll check Amazon and see if I can get a hold of it, that looks intersting!