i can quit any time I want to — plus the recipe for Perfect Pinto Beans, my favorite meal of all time

Hurm.  I seem to be going through a period of profound lack of ambition in all things.  Skipping yoga.  Wearing my pajamas until noon.  Reading trashy books.  Eating absurd amounts of corn chips.  Hating my current novel with a wimpy tongue-stuck-out-Nnnnnn! but refusing to do anything about it.  Floating on the pond until I prune up.

In light of all this, I thought it was time for a return to one of my all time favorite foods.


Long time blog readers might recall this post, documenting my very first experience of Sriracha Chili Sauce.  On that day, I described my mouth melting off and running down the side of my neck. An aside: did you know that capsaicin, the stuff that makes chilli peppers seem “hot,” is actually causing a kind of neuro-confusion in our mouths?  Turns out capsaicin binds with the receptors in our tongue that are supposed to alert us to temperature—that is, if we’ve put something in our mouths that will actually burn our flesh, like, say, boiling water.  But obviously, you can eat a room-temp, or even chilled Sriracha and it will still seem “hot”… because those tongue receptors get all confused and think that anything that binds to them is talking in the language of temperature.  Silly receptors!  It isn’t hot.  It’s just pretending.

Anyway, I’m so into this stuff, I eat it on everything.  I am the butt of endless jokes in my family because of this, but I don’t care.  Until they found me, um, well, they found me squirting some directly into my mouth from the bottle.  Now the jokes will not end.

But it’s not as bad as it sounds!  I had just taken a bite of nachos, an almost perfect bite of nachos, it just needed a little Sriracha to attain said perfection, and so I, innocently, instinctively, picked up the bottle and added the needed ingredient.  By squirting some into my mouth.  For the perfect bite.

Did you know that, since those receptors I mentioned believe the body is being actually burned, they tell the brain to release endorphins, and pronto, because hey, burns hurt!  Endorphins are neurotransmitters that act like morphine to us, happy drugs, pleasure.  Did you know there is medical grade capsaicin proscribed as a pain killer for just this reason?  Did you know there is a freaking capsaicin patch?  But you can get Sriracha over the counter, so hey.  I’m sticking with what I know.

And there are no bad side-effects.  No withdrawal, people.  This is a feel good train that doesn’t end.

My Granddaddy used to grow hot peppers and make hot pepper jelly.  Then the guys would get together and have informal—but deadly serious—competitions on who had made the hottest jelly, and who could eat it in the most manly way.  Until this one time, it was probably funny later, anyway, this one guy ended up in the hospital, and then the wives shut the whole thing down…  You know how it is.

Okay, I was feeling all bad-ass because I apparently have become numb to Sriracha which I now eat straight from the bottle (just that one time!  those two times!  not very often at all!), but then I saw this list where every chili and hot sauce ever invented in the multi-verse has been rated on the Scoville Scale and dang if Sriracha isn’t fairly low on the list.  Like, about 2500.  This is spicy compared to, say, Texas Pete which rates at around 750.  But compared to “Pain,” an actual sauce you can buy and put on your food if you want to suffer like my Grandaddy, Sriracha is nothing.  “Pain” is rated at 15,000.  But even that is child’s play!  “Widow’s Sauce” is rated at 90,000.  Maybe those aforementioned wives knew what they were about.  And straight habanero peppers?  100,000.  Military grade pepper spray?  2,000,000.  Yeah, let me see you spray that shit on your burrito.

Did you know capsaicin increases metabolism?  Yep, those beads of sweat that pop out on your forehead when you’re eating something really spicy are the result of your body burning calories.  So yeah, you’ll lose weight…but only until you get acclimated to that level of heat.  Then you’ll have to keep upping your Scoville tolerance if you want to keep getting the metabolic effect.  You could just print out the list and work your way up it…

I don’t know, I just can’t see the point anymore of eating something without a little spicy red stuff squirted on top.

Peppers are a fruit, not a vegetable, so at least I’m safe there.  Y’all know how I hate vegetables.

What do you think, harmless quirk?  Or dangerous and slippery slope?  The family intervention didn’t work, obviously.  I’m thinking about upping my dosage.  Like maybe a small bottle of “Pain.”

Okay, enough of that, time for the SIMPLEST RECIPE IN THE WORLD.

Maya’s Favorite Bowl of Pinto Beans

1- Soak a pound of dry pinto beans overnight.  Or a couple of days.  Whatever.  Don’t let them sprout.

2- Put the beans in the slow cooker with a bunch of water, a chopped onion, and a dried Ancho Chili.  Maybe add some garlic, if you have the time.  Sometimes I throw in five or six whole cloves, sometimes I bother to chop them up.  A bay leaf is nice, too, but the main thing is that Ancho.

Note: Ancho chilis are not hot.  They just add a lovely flavor to the beans.  A chipotle chili is also a gorgeous smokey flavor, but it’s a little spicier, so probably not for kids.

Important: Do not add any salt whatsoever.  And no tomatoes.  Both of these will cause your beans to stay hard no matter how long you cook them.

3- Cook for a long time.  I don’t know.  Maybe six hours.  But it can be longer if you have to go to work or rotate the tires or save the universe.  Just cook ’em until the beans are as soft as you like them.

Work time: maybe three minutes one day for the soaking.  Maybe five minutes the next day for the dumping of stuff into slow cooker.  I’m telling you people, this stuff is dead easy to make.

Total preparation time including soaking and cooking, a couple of days.

4- Add salt last, after the beans are soft.  They taste DIVINE.  I like them with some cheese grated on top and a spiral of bright red, you guessed it, Sriracha sauce.  I also love them with the world’s best corn bread.  But if I haven’t made that up, a handful of corn chips is nearly as good.

If I could have only one meal for the rest of my life, this would probably be it.  What can I say, I like simple foods. And it’s cheap!  So that’s a plus. As long as I get to take my bottle of Sriracha with me, I’m good.

10 thoughts on “i can quit any time I want to — plus the recipe for Perfect Pinto Beans, my favorite meal of all time

  1. CathyB

    I hate to burst your fruit bubble, Maya, but your rationalization for liking peppers doesn’t hold up. Botanically speaking, the parts of the plant that contain its seeds — be it pear, pepper, zucchini, or bean — is a fruit. Thus, broccoli is not a fruit, because we eat the flowers and stalks. The edible part of lettuce is the leaf. You get the idea.

    So you’ll have to find another rationalization to justify your addiction. My personal theory is that you are attempting to compensate for our heat wave outside by creating your own internal heat wave — balancing the universe, so to speak.

  2. grimmly Grimmly

    Maya, What have you done? bought me some of your Devil sauce. Your pinto beans at the weekend perhaps but tonight…. burrito’s.
    Had a tiny tiny taste at work, half the bit that sits on the foil top when you take it off..POW. Maya, I’m married to a Korean/Japanese, not a stranger to the chilli, but wow : ) That tiny little taste and I was sweating for forty minutes. Can’t wait for my burrito’s
    Thanks for the heads up

  3. John Murphy

    I went through a phase a while ago while learning to be a better cook where I refused to cook with anything I hadn’t tasted on its own. Taking a bite of habanero cured me of that pretty damn quick — and with a minimum of brain damage, I’m pretty sure! (I am, however, also a die-hard Sriracha fan)

  4. Deborah

    I ADORE your blog. Or maybe it’s the vision of you taking a pull of your coveted Sriracha sause straight from the bottle! Whatever, you crack me up. Once a month, I find mySELF creeping around the kitchen in the middle of the night searching for somethign on which to slather Frank’s Red Hot sauce. I’ve been so desperate as to put it on cottage cheese. Or, I can now admit (since you’ve minimized the stigma) actually dripped the stuff directly onto my tongue. But compared to that Sriracha stuff, Frank’s is like drinking an iced coffee after all the ice cubes have melted into it; just doesn’t pack the same punch. Oh, and thanks for the bean recipe. I dream of being able to make glorious pinto beans. I’m going to try your recipe as soon as possible.

  5. maya Post author

    Cathy, shhhhh! Don’t tell me that stuff. I’m sneaking this chili thing under the veggie radar!

    Grimmly, do you need any medical assistance? For heaven’s sake, don’t melt completely. We can’t lose you, man!

    John, nice to meet you, thanks for commenting! I can’t believe you bite an habanero. That’s hard core. No thank you. 🙂

    Deborah, thanks so much. I hope you like the pinto beans. Find you a big, dried, ancho chili, look in the Hispanic section of the grocery store, and throw it into your crock pot. Those beans will be lovely.

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