green beans

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.

chopped green beans

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.

roasted green beans

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.

Ingredients:
Green beans
Olive Oil
One lemon
Two garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt (and black pepper, if desired)

Directions:
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.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 39 Comments

  1. Joanna

    I am with you on the whole shallow interactions thing. I hate small talk and love to be able to really get to know someone and have deep and sincere conversation, but it is so hard sometimes to find that, and it is awkward to have it be one sided. I don’t want to open up and then have someone respond with surface talk. I feel like violated when that happens. Anyways…I have never heard anyone make greenbeans sound so good. I had no plans for dinner, so I’m going to have to go get me some greenbeans instead of my usual rice and spinach or rice and cilantro…

    And can I say once again, I want a book from you. If that moron they made that movie about can get a book deal then I’m pretty sure anyone can.

  2. Lan

    i think with relationships, like these green beans, it’s what you put forth… going with your analogy, you put a great deal of love into these green beans, a healthy dose of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, some bake time in the oven and look what happened. something so delicious, you weren’t able to stop eating it and now you’re raving about it. shallow interactions suck yes but a necessary evil, at least at first until you’re able to dive a little deeper and just maybe, you be the first to do it. men, despite their rough exterior are probably more afraid of getting hurt than we women are. there is nothing wrong with being honest and upfront and direct with someone, because wouldn’t you rather lament about it not working out that way than about wasted time spent being false?

  3. Antonietta

    I was actually talking to friends about the same thing last night! ( The shallowness of conversations, not green beans :) ) and, in the end, one of my friends said this: if you look at the person you are talking to and know that he/ she is a gift, then even the most banal conversations will look beautiful. The fact that we are given these circumstances, ( good and bad, great talks or snoozers) should remind us that someone greater than us loves us. Even crappy circumstances are given to us to teach us something. Wow!

  4. Jacqui

    roasted green beans with lemon? yes. oh yes.

    see you tomorrow, for yummy thai food and REAL conversation. about important stuff, like what you’re gonna do with all that eggplant in your CSA box.

  5. postcollegecook

    It’s funny how there are certain people that, for whatever reason, make you feel completely open and comfortable, even when you first meet them. It feels safe and normal, or even expected, to pour your heart out to them and dig beyond the surface. Then there are others that you may have a lot in common with or connect with on a surface level, but with whom there seems to be a wall keeping you from getting beyond the exterior.

    I wish I could put my finger on the trait that gives people that comfortable, safe, open aura because I dearly hope I am that person to others. But then again, it probably has more to do with chemistry between two people and how their personalities and the circumstances mix.

    Excellent reflection, Shanna.

  6. lo

    True enough about green beans — they’re good, and simple. And yet, somehow truly delicious.

    The concept of chesed is so beautiful — and it’s something I think we should all aspire to in our relationships.

  7. Kristilyn

    I agree with the small talk – it happens way too often. I would definitely rather to really get to know someone instead of getting asked the same questions day in and day out. It’s like people who use ‘How are you?’ as a greeting, when you know deep down that they don’t really care about the answer.

    But to get to the point, those green beans sound amazing. I’ve only ever boiled them (I know – shock! gasp!), but I’ll have to try roasting them once ours are ready for harvesting.

    K

  8. Maria

    Funny thing, conversation. Funnier thing, I think, that we all started with the pasted smiles and the “how do you dos” and false interactions, and at some point, sometimes, these relationships end up okay.

    It’s why, sometimes, I’m maybe, secretly, envious of the terribly extroverted, who wander through life making small talk and friends as easily as I roast veggies. They’re not always seeking authenticity and meaningful conversation and something greater…

    And I’m starting to realize that’s okay.

  9. My First Kitchen

    How great are you. I’m pretty sure you’ve followed me at a lunch before with that breakdown. Scary. And by the way, do this same thing with broccoli but add Parm at the end. Perfection. Now I’m off to read about your party I sadly missed.

  10. Sprouted Kitchen

    um, that was one of the most beautiful posts I’ve read in a long time. Seriously, I am printing this out and putting it in my journal as it is SO real. I just love it. Agreed, what are we afraid of? As there is never a point where we will be unloved, or alone. Anyways, no need for me to rant, just want to compliment you on your writing..

  11. Shannalee

    Oh, you’re all killing me with your comments on this one! One thing is certain, and that is that it’s easy to be open with you and your always-kind responses.

    Joanna, How many times can I tell you that you are so kind!? Thank you. For reading, for commenting so thoughtfully, for being a person (like me) who wants deep conversation. I am blessed to know you.

    Lan, I always enjoy your thoughtful responses! Maybe a lot of times, there’s a direct correlation between what you put in and what you get out of relationships (as with anything else) but, IMO, the thing that makes relationships so unique is that there’s always this crazy who-knows factor that can change things, more so than with anything else. I mean, can you bear your soul to someone who will stomp all over your heart? Yes. Can you be a jerk to someone who will then extend grace to you? Yes. But, the gist of what you’re saying is kind of my conclusion as well: that it is better, more joyful maybe, to be the person who is open and real, even with the chance (or actuality) of being hurt, and this directly relates to the fact that I am already loved, without condition, and that has changed my desires/abilities.

    Antonietta, I love what you said so much, that everything is a gift – YES! – and that changes the way I look at even shallow conversations. Thank you.

    Rachel, Oh, it has been used, all right. So used!

    Jacqui, Ha! Can’t wait! And seriously, something I liked about you right away when we had breakfast a few months back was that I could tell you, yeah, I am scared to take that apartment or yeah, talking about my grandma has been good for me–without feeling weird. You were good about that. Thank you. And see you tomorrow!

    postcollegecook, Yes, I agree, and I want to be like that, too, but maybe it is more of a meshing? I can think of two people I know who, seeing me after a long time of not, looked me in the eyes with compassion and melted away any pretense. I don’t know how they did it except that they loved.

    lo, The concept of chesed is something I will always be amazed, humbled and inspired by. Life changing.

    Kristilyn, I know! We ask “how are you” but only want a “fine” response, no details, thankyouverymuch. I hate that. And PS no gasps from me about just boiling – that’s quite nice, too!

    Maria, You have got me thinking about whether this IS just something that relates to introverted vs. extroverted personalities. I wonder if it’s just my introverted side that hates shallow conversation, and I wonder if I were more extroverted if I could be perfectly fine to chit chat, nothing more. I’m not sure. Food for thought. What I do know is that, right now, I am not satisfied with shallow and long for more, whether that’s personality or background or what. But maybe what you said can help me understand the other point of view. I appreciate that.

    MyFirstKitchen, HA! Kendra, I would love to follow you to a lunch like that. Thanks for the tip about the broccoli! I bet that would be delicious!

    SproutedKitchen, Sarah, you are truly beyond kind. Thank you so much!

    Emily, Thank you! (and thanks for coming back after the site had its hiccups earlier!) I hope you’ll find both very soon.

    Ozoz, Amen and thank you.

    Montague, Thank you and yay! I hope you love them!

  12. Kim

    I am making these tonight. And I will talk to my green beans about how reliable they are, and how I wish I could sit across the table from them and have meaningful conversations…that’s what you were getting at, right? ;-)

  13. Kathi D

    Wow. All that and cooking, too! I do identify with your take on relationships. I find that I am almost unable to make “small talk” these days, after doing it for so very many years.

    Now, a request: I picked about 40 pounds of butternut squash today. What can I do with it?

  14. Shannalee

    Kim, Ha! Nice job lightening the mood on this one! Hope you and your green beans had a very nice time together.

    Jessica, I could not agree more. Crisp is my favorite, too.

    Kathi D, Sometimes it feels like such a waste of time to me! But maybe that reveals more of my impatience than anything.

    Anyway, for the squash – I love it candied (like this maybe: http://southernfood.about.com/od/wintersquashrecipes/r/bl30318x.htm) but would be fascinated to try it in a cream soup (like a variance of this: http://foodloveswriting.com/2008/11/21/for-days-like-these/). But 40 pounds? I cannot wait to hear what ALL you do with that!

  15. Janet

    I was holding my breath reading this until the end. You nailed exactly my frustration with relationships. If you’re just going through the motions, then why bother sitting through it all? Would you eat an entire plate of overcooked green beans? You wouldn’t buy them if they were wilted, close to rotten or just plain ugly, so why not apply the same philosophy to those relationships.

    I never really liked green beans. The image brings to mind those horrible canned ones. I’ve had friends tell me about growing up on those solely. And that’s how they came to hate vegetables. But baked probably is easier than blanching or steaming since I can’t quite get the consistency right. I think I might’ve roasted the chicken a tad too long. I lost track of time and just kept opening the oven and checking.

  16. jessiev

    YUM. i love green beans. we usually make the moosewood salad, where they are blanced and then tossed with onions and shredded sharp cheddar in a balsamic vinaigrette. OH YUM! but this recipe – i’ll have to get more beans today, i think. how come you cut the curly tips off? they are so cute to eat.

    as to talking deep, i hear you. esp in this internet world, we need to make more REAL connections with those we talk with face to face.

  17. Kim

    PS – I made these last night and they were scrumptious. Mmm! We had a lovely time. Just me, the green beans, and some Hoarders on A&E (truly frightening).

    And lightening the mood or not, I always put forth maximum effort in my relationships, whether blog or otherwise. I’ve been on the giving end of a one-way friendship too many times – it’s just not worth it! I think we’re at a point in our lives (post-college, and those friends-of-convenience aren’t always around) where we learn who our true friends are, and which relationships are really worth making an effort for. Even if we sometimes end our sentences in prepositions.

  18. Caitlin

    I feel like all I have are those meaningless surface relationships now that I’m out of college. Only my friends from college know the “real” me, and everyone else just knows my job, my hobbies, whatever. Whether they actually want to know my thoughts is questionable. It’s a bit depressing, but I hesitate to decide if it’s my fault or theirs. In the meantime, I try to get my true thoughts out here through my posts. Weird, isn’t it, that the people who know my innermost thoughts are people I will probably never meet in real life? But at least each of us has a safe place, a sounding board, somewhere to throw our true feelings where others care. It’s a good feeling.

  19. Johanna Inman

    Hello there. I’m new here and I really enjoyed reading this entry. I’m so glad to have found a new food blog that tells stories along with the recipes. You’re a beautiful writer.

    I am put off by small talk with people I feel no connection with. For this, some people assume I am very shy! Boy, are they surprised if they ever get me to open up.

    I have never baked a green bean. I have no idea how I’ve gotten around this, but I will be sure to try your recipe because it sounds delicious!

  20. redmenace

    What a lovely post! I never used to be a green bean fan. Now that I’m a grown-up, I must try again. These do look delicious! Thanks for your comment on my blog too. I’m glad you liked the scalloped tomatoes!

  21. Amanda Mae

    beautiful post! I know what you mean, it can be hard to crack below the surface in relationships. Sometimes it happens right away, and sometimes, a lot longer. And sometimes, never. If that awkward shallowness never goes away, it should be ok to walk away, peacefully, no? Or is that giving up? I’ve always wondered about that… I don’t want to give up… but sometimes people don’t click. Ya know?

  22. Shannalee

    Janet, I love the way you said you were holding your breath until the end. That is such a good visual picture! As far as the green beans – I’ll be transparent and admit I’m content eating the canned ones, but I believe with 100% assurance that fresh are better. I like them crisp. Crisp and packed with flavor. And lemon is one of the best flavors there is. Which brings me to the chicken – I’m so sorry to hear about the overcooking! One key thing that helps is to keep basting the heck out of that bird all along. I checked on mine every 20 minutes or so (thank you, Julia Child, for that advice) and kept squeezing a little more lemon juice or scooping juices from the bottom of the pan to throw all over. Don’t give up – it’s worth the effort (as are relationships, or the right kinds of them).

    JessieV, You ask such a good question about the curly tips, and to be honest, I have no idea! I just always have cut the tips off! I guess you don’t have to?

    Kim, All ending-sentences-in-prepositions friends are welcome here, friend! You know that, though, I think. Good thoughts!

    Caitlin, I loved your comment so much, like I e-mailed you. I have felt many times that rather than bother my friend who doesn’t have time to listen, I could just post on the blog to people who choose to, and it’s such a comfort/sounding board.

    Johanna, I was glad to find your site, too! You made me laugh with the shy comment. I think that’s true of a lot of us – we seem quiet at first, but we’re testing the waters, maybe. I love the people who can break down my walls right away, though they are rare.

    RedMenace, No, I LOVED your tomatoes! Loved them! I may post about them soon!

    Amanda Mae, Thank you, sweet girl, for your kind comment and for your questions. These are things I am wrestling with right now, trying to extend grace day by day, whether or not that means friendship.

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  24. Jennifer

    Shanna, this sounds wonderful! How many green beans do you use with that amount of lemon, etc.?

    Kim, as a college grammar teacher, let me assure you that prepositions are perfectly fine words to end sentences with. Much better than awkwardly wording a sentence simply for the sake of pedantry. So feel no guilt! :)

  25. Shannalee

    Jennifer – Such a great question, but I have no idea. It was the bag you see pictured above, and I know I should’ve measured it first before cooking, but, well, I was so excited (and hungry)! I’d say it’s fine to eyeball here, just make sure you have enough olive oil to get all the green beans good and kissed with it, and enough lemon to make the citrus flavor pop. Hope that helps!

  26. Kim

    Thanks, Jennifer! My grandmother was a high school English teacher, and she sometimes let me end sentences with prepositions as well. Not too often, I think, because when she was in school (in the 30’s/40’s), it was more acceptable to reword your sentence to one in which a preposition in the middle of the sentence fell. ;-)

  27. Lenox Ave

    I love how you go from the wish for more meaningful connections to green beans and their familiarity. There’s something very comforting about them though. I used to snap the ends for my Gran as a child. Nice memories.

  28. Shannalee

    Thank you, Lenox – I love talking about the important stuff with the everyday. It’s really comforting—as are green beans, you are right! That’s a sweet memory to have with your grandma; thanks for sharing.

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