A SIBILANT SYMPHONY

To celebrate Half-a-Knot Bean Stew — a recipe I had not cooked since the year 2000, I’m posting this excerpt from a chapter of my first memoir, IF THE SHOE FITS (print ed.)/I ONLY CUSS WHEN I’M SAILING (e-book ed.) Recently I had some friends over to share this dish, served with corn bread. The next day, one guest reported that at 2:30 a.m. he was awakened to sibilant sounds — and, as he put it, “the rise and fall of my comforter.” What can I say. It’s a fun, tasty recipe. This essay appeared in the Jan/Feb 2000 issue of LIVING ABOARD Magazine, in a slightly different form.

A SIBILANT SYMPHONY
“Ah!.Wind, the sibilant symphony,” Tom says as a gust of wind tips us over sideways to 20 degrees.
“Sibilant?” I ask, bracing my legs against the opposite cockpit seat. I’m all too familiar with the halyard chorus that sings through the harbor during a howling wind, when hundreds of halyards clang against their masts–but now a sibilant symphony?
“Yes, it means having or making a hissing sound,” he announces.
“Oh,” I say, wondering why I’ve never heard of the word sibilant before. Where have I been? Obviously not in the wind. What am I doing out here sailing during a small craft advisory, wearing four layers of wool and my rain gear? I don’t even like drafts. I’m glad my mother will never know about this.
“Why use a bunch of little words when one or two big ones work so well?” Tom asks.
On this same outing–a long, cold evening passage across Bellingham Bay–I tell Tom, “You know, I’ve got to start cooking beans from scratch. They’re a cheap source of protein and they store well on passages even longer than this one.”
“What kind of beans?”
“Oh, lentils, split peas, garbanzos, black beans. They come in all colors. I’ll just paint us a meal or two with some beans and we’ll see how it goes. I want to learn to grow sprouts, too. You can’t go buying lettuce in the middle of the Pacific. Then there’s yogurt. And we can grind our own flour and make pasta.”
Tom continues his gaze over the bow toward the lights of the harbor.
“Are you listening?”
“You’re right,” he says. “We should start soon.”
We already eat tofu occasionally in stir fry. Tom and I had tried to introduce this delicacy to Jeff and Lee while we still lived in Montana. One evening, when this hare-brained sailboat scheme was in its infancy, we invited them to dinner to share the news. As my son pushed pieces of tofu off to the side of his plate we told him of our plans to buy a sailboat and sail to the Caribbean.
“First the tofu, now this,” he said earnestly. “You guys are losing it.”
“Lots of people do it,” I said. “You’d be surprised.”
“Just promise me you won’t go sailing in the Bermuda Triangle.”
“How fast do you go when you sail on the ocean?” Lee asked.
“Oh, six, maybe seven knots,” Tom said, as if they’d have a clue about a knot.
“That’s seven or eight miles an hour,” I said.
Jeff laughed so hard he cried, and we all joined him. “But you’re in your fifties!” he said through his tears, “You’ll never get there at that speed.”
As we amp up our diet to include home-made sprouts and bean dishes, we get wind of a previously unnoticed law of physics–that smells and noises expand to fit the space available. This is an unfortunate turn of events for someone who, in a former life, was quite possibly a canary used in gold mines to detect carbon monoxide. It doesn’t take long to realize that we need a much larger sailboat–preferably one the size of a barn. Thirty-seven feet just isn’t big enough.
I’ve been checking with other liveaboards on this topic. My local research has been lively. One woman tells me that when she and her husband were first married she held her discomfort, but her husband refused to do this because he feared it would make him sick. They almost got a divorce over the issue. Why don’t more people talk about a topic that has such potentially high stakes? Marriages could be saved. She finally decided she wasn’t going to suffer the pain of holding it in while enduring his free-for-all flatulence. So now she just lets fly and it’s no big deal. Their two little liveaboard doggies do it, too. That’s the consensus of all the couples I’ve interviewed on the subject. You become very tolerant and lower your air quality standards or you don’t live on a sailboat with another person, and certainly not dogs.
We find that the best defense is to go sailing immediately after eating beans or sprouts. It’s a sibilant symphony out there anyway and we’ve discovered that our cruising speed picks up about half a knot.
HALF-A-KNOT BEAN STEW
2-1/2 cups     Beans (garbanzo, pinto, black, red, etc.)
1                                  Onion, chopped
3 – 4                            Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 T.                              Canola Oil
2 tsp.                           Salt
Dash                           Pepper
1 can                           Tomatoes, diced, in juice (16 oz.)
1 can                           Tomato sauce (8 oz.)
4 T.                             Brown sugar
2                                  Carrots, cut up
1 – 2 lbs.                     Lean Ground Beef (or lamb or goat) – optional
Sort and clean beans, rinse.  Cover beans in crock pot with 6 cups water.  Simmer approx. ½ hour.  Set where it is cool over night.
Next day, saute meat and dispose of any fat.  Saute onion and garlic in oil.  Place in pot with beans and all other ingredients.  If using a crock pot, cook 4 hours on high; 4 hours on low. On stove top simmer until done. Prior to serving, adjust salt, pepper and brown sugar to taste.
Serve with corn bread and a salad (be sure to include sprouts).

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