One thing you can say for green beans: they make sense. When you take a big bag of them out of your second CSA box, for example, confusion is not what assaults you (unless it’s curiosity over which of the many good, good ways to make them you will choose).
That’s more than I can say for a lot of things, and I mean even beyond turnips or Swiss chard or bok choy. Like relationships—is there anything more wonderful, painful, easy, hard and just plain confusing than knowing another human being? In my life, I’ve sat across the dinner table from someone, recently, and heard myself sing-song-ing surface things like, Oh, you know, I’m just keeping busy with work, I like to bake, and nodding while they say, Yeah, here is what I do for a living and here is where I live and gee, it was great seeing you, let’s do it again sometime, while we both walk away with our pasted smiles, saying, call me later!, hoping we won’t, interacting on a shallow level when we both want deep (I mean, I want deep. Or at least real).
I want to be honest with the person I sit down with, to not pretend, to share my stories and hear theirs, to stand on top of the table at our plastic booth of pretense and yell WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS? But I don’t.
So eventually there comes a point when we’ll rise from the table, from the topics, to something else, anything else, that feels safe, and neat, and not so messy. I think we both want to know and show love, but we fail at it.
These are the kinds of things I think about a lot. Heavy, right? Not normal, maybe. But they’re the kind of things that make coming home to a bowl full of fresh green beans, well, comforting, you know what I mean? I look at them and know, for a fact, that they will transform in the oven. That is something that makes complete sense, something that is simple—unlike the complexities of relationships, in which it can seem anything but simple to feel safe, to be true while we talk, to trust, even when, deep down, that’s exactly what we want most.
There’s a a Hebrew term, chesed, that means steadfast love, the kind that never, ever leaves you, the kind of covenants and lasting promises, the kind God made to Israel and to His people today . If I am loved with that kind of love, what am I afraid of, I ask myself? This is something I think about, too.
So green beans are good because they’re simple. They’re familiar, and you and I can talk about them, without walls, so that I won’t just say, They were delicious!, like I could if I feared opening up to you, but I say, shamelessly, that I love the way they transform in the oven, from cold and tough to blistered and crisp.
With you, my friends, I am bold enough to also say they are proof, again, that good things come from high pressure, even in the kitchen, and that makes me happy because it is something True, something that makes sense, something that mirrors a reality in the rest of life—that I am being changed and grown, day by day, often through what is hot or hard and painful or hard to understand.
And when I eat them, popping one salty, citrus-packed bean after another into my mouth, there is nothing easier than licking my lips, content and happy—blessed by something that was bruised, aware that I am and will be, too, but that the pain will never be for nothing—and that I am loved—and, because of that, I do not need to be afraid.
Roasted lemon-garlic green beans
Green beans are probably the one vegetable I have always liked. After getting ideas from Twitter, I chose to roast them, because when you really want to make a green bean shine, you bathe it in olive oil mixed with chopped garlic, then lay it, along with dozens of others, on a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzled with freshly squeezed lemon juice, and shove the whole thing in a hot-hot 450-degree oven until it emerges, minutes later, lightly browned and wilted, saturated with oil and fragrant with citrus, and you sprinkle sea salt on top of its blistered skin, at which point, you won’t be able to stop popping bean after bean into your happy mouth. I mean it.
Two garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt (and black pepper, if desired)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a bowl, combine washed green beans with enough olive oil to coat every bean, and toss with minced garlic and the juice and zest of half a lemon. Let it soak up the oil until the oven has heated, then layer the beans on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for around eight minutes, keeping an eye on them. Remove when the beans have browned and blistered and you hear a hissing sound from the pan. Sprinkle sea salt all over the top while the beans are still hot.