When we lose connection with the land and further, with our own animal-ness, we forget how to do necessary and biologically sacred tasks such as nourishing ourselves well. In many ways, our vital relationship with food and land are taken from us when systems that many of us have no idea are there, let alone know how to transcend, decide for us how and what to eat. This taking place in the form of the store-bought foods via can, jar, box, and bag, and with little to no regard for what season it is, where in the world we are, and what it takes to get said products into our kitchens. I understand that many of us go for pre-made/pre-packaged foods because we don't feel empowered to cook for ourselves. Whether that's due to money, time, energy, knowledge, or otherwise, it's all completely valid. And though it is indeed valid, I still feel it's sad, though it's inherently no fault of our own, necessarily.....I don't know. It's complicated. But this, especially considering that cooking and eating are both practices that sustain our very existence.
When I was learning to cook food from scratch, I felt that part of my dignity was being healed and restored. Like I was taking something crucial back. With this said, and with all situations and circumstances considered, I think that cooking (and cooking at the very least) is more doable, and for many people more fun, to re-learn/Remember than some of us might think. Even if it's just once a week. Especially if it means eating food that tastes better and feels better.
I'm from western North Carolina and for the past few years I've gone to the farmer's market for my food or have grown it myself. This offered me much more intimacy with my physical place in the world, and eventually and even further, with myself. About 90% of what I ate came from my own land or that of another's who lived close by. I was grateful for this as the food tasted a lot better and I felt a finer and more grounded sense of presence with the "here and now." "Here," being North Carolina, "Now," being whatever season it is. I don't want anyone to think that I ever did this perfectly. I was still eating avocados from the store, chocolate, spirulina, turmeric, any spice I wanted, etc. I still do this. Achiote seed is included in this recipe and it's grown in and native to tropical South America (learn more about it here). There seems to always be something at the store that I can't get from the market. Yet, I feel that eating with at least some awareness of what our bodies need during certain seasons and what the land is offering is well-worth putting effort into.
Since moving to the Las Vegas area with my partner, it has been much harder to eat from the land. There certainly isn't as much in abundance (though the desert musn't be mistaken as barren. There is still life here, including edible and medicinal life.) and I don't know this terrain even half as well as I knew Appalachia. And yet, I still try.
We are bunking at my partner's mom's house while we become employed and find a home. She has a small garden in the back where she's growing several herbs. Sage is one that she grows in abundance. It was one I grew in abundance back home as well.
I began developing this recipe when I was still living in North Carolina. It was for nights when I wanted refried beans with tacos instead of meat. I learned how to make refried beans when I was vegan, but nothing has ever compared to the refried beans I've made with leftover pork fat and lots and lots of sage. Refried beans are such an incredible vehicle for all sorts of depth of flavor possibilities. They're also so, so easy to make and unfortunately just one of those things that folks I feel, are stumped by and think they just need to buy in a can (thus, my rant about learning to make things from scratch). No, friends! Here are refried beans, demystified!
-About 1/3-1/4 cup of animal fat. Add more at the end if you think it needs it! This recipe is intended to feature the flavor of pork fat, so keep that in mind.
Please know where your animal products come from and how the animals you are consuming are treated. This is important ecologically, sustainably, as far as quality and flavor, etc.
I think pork goes really well with this recipe but go for what you have.
-1/4 yellow or white onion, chopped finely
I must stress that I really want you to chop these onions finely. It makes a huge difference in the way the flavor is disbursed and the texture is leveled. Same with garlic.
-5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
-2.5-3 cups of cooked black beans.
Black lentils work great here too!
-A handful or two of fresh sage
I highly recommend fresh sage. Fresh herbs still have their water content which helps infuse the flavor into what you're cooking.
-Cumin, to taste
I use about three shakes from the bottle
-Annatto, or achiote seed, ground, to taste
I use about three shakes from the bottle
-Approximately one cup of water
-Sea or Himalayan salt
Heat the animal fat on medium heat. Once hot, add your finely chopped onion and garlic. Let simmer until translucent and fragrant.
Add your black beans, stir well, and add about 1/4 cup of water. The water will dissipate as you cook, and you'll likely keep adding more. It is just used to maintain good consistency. Let sit for about 2-3 minutes, just long enough for everything to cook together.
With a potato masher, meat tenderizer, or whatever tool you've got on hand, mash your beans. I do not recommend using a fork or wooden spoon, as you'll be mashing for what will feel like forever. They don't have to be perfect, I don't even recommend you make these super smooth. I like mine mostly mushed with about 1/4 of the beans left whole.
Add your cumin and achiote seeds. Stir.
Finely (again, I do stress finely) chop your sage and sprinkle it in. Stir.
Add salt to taste.
Keep adding water if your beans are getting too dry. Just remember not to put too much or your refried beans will be more like bean soup, which isn't what we're going for here.
These beans are pretty versatile! I like to stuff them in any sort of tortilla, as a side, in a bowl of squash and verde sauce, with black or brown rice and veggies, etc.