New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for December, 2012

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

So I was working as a reporter for a small town in Texas and I was sent to get the scoop on a series of attacks on different restaurants in the region.

The first one was a Chinese restaurant, and the vandal had tipped over a big pot of soup that was on a slow simmer overnight. Then at an Italian restaurant, tomato sauce covered the kitchen floor. At a Mexican restaurant, there was salsa all over the floor.

And for a while, it seemed that not only was the vandal choosing different places, but he was choosing a different ethnic category of restaurant each time. After a while, the police started to stake out the one and only Estonian-Peruvian restaurant in the tri-state area in hopes that they would catch him there.

But much to our surprise he attacked the Chinese restaurant again, knocking over a big pot of soup with dumplings in it. So I wrote in the article that our vandal...

...had committed another act of wonton destruction.


By Bart Geraci

It's a day after NORGY 2012 and I'm still behind on emails, real mails, and other things. A great time was had by all and should be detailed in the next issue.

Oh, and we need a new editor.

And have a happy new year!

BrainFork: A Mensan talks about food


Bart Geraci

“Me, sexy? I'm just plain ol' beans and rice.”
-Pam Grier-

Red Beans and Rice has become the standard meal in New Orleans on a Monday to the point where this simple dish is just another part of the New Orleans culture. Louis Armstrong would use as a closing for his letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours”.

“Monday is the key day of the week.”
-Gaelic Proverb-

Why Monday? Well, usually on Sunday, ham would appear at a meal, and on Monday, washings would be done. So people needed to cook something that could sit in a pot for a long time while the washing was done. And possibly utilize some left-over ham bones and pieces.

“Beans are neither fruit nor musical”
-Bart Simpson-

Why red kidney beans? These beans come from Haiti and Cuba, as well as other Caribbean islands. When the Haitian Revolution occurred in 1809-1810, many refugees fled Haiti and moved to Cuba, then they eventually ended up in New Orleans and brought their beans with them. Like countless cultures before and after them, the refugees brought another addition to the incredible multinational food landscape of New Orleans.

“My mother likes what I cook, but doesn't think it's French. My wife is Puerto Rican and Cuban, so I eat rice and beans. We have a place in Mexico, but people think I'm the quintessential French chef.”
-Jacques Pepin-

Why rice? Well, the major rice industries started off in the eastern coast of the Carolinas and Georgia. But after the Civil War, a lot of these fields were destroyed, so growers started looking elsewhere to harvest. By the late 1800s, Louisiana, with its flat land and access to water, began to be a good location.


“Blow your beans...on Route 17!”
-Chowder TV show-

Ingredients List:

(1) Presoak

One of the first steps in RB&R begins the night before: soaking the dried beans overnight. Generally, add enough water to the beans to cover it by a few inches. This not only rehydrates the beans to be ready for cooking, but it also cuts down on the toxicity. Wait, what?

Well, red kidney beans contains the toxic compound Phytohaemagglutinin which can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. However the compound is deactivated if the beans are cooked at boiling point for 10 minutes. Overnight soaking (and subsequent rinsing) also reduces the toxic levels. What actually increases the toxicity is cooking beans below the boiling point, such as in a slow cooker. But once the beans are cooked at the boiling point for 10 minutes, then it's safe to add it to the slow cooker.

But let's say that you have the beans soaking overnight in water (one variation adds chopped onions to the soaking liquid). In the morning, you drain the water away, rinse the beans and we're ready to begin cooking.

(2) Saute ? And when?

At this stage, you can either saute proteins and vegetables first (before adding beans and fresh water), last (in separate pan, then add to almost cooked beans), or none (just add with beans and water and let it all cook together).

On the saute side, you'll usually start with ham cubes / sausage pieces and perhaps with a little bit of oil. Then add onions (perhaps separately), celery, garlic, bell peppers, and/or other vegetables. As you saute the vegetables, be sure to season them as you go along ; minding that ham cubes / pieces contribute some salt to the dish. Also be aware that in the final dish, the rice will cut down on the intensity of the flavor and spice levels, so you may want to add a little more seasoning than what you normally prefer. You don't have to make it spicy hot since most RB&R is served at the table with hot sauce on the table and people adjust their heat levels that way.

One thing that is found often in RB&R is the bay leaf (Bay Laurel). One to three leaves are used (depending on amount of beans / water / size of leaves). Even though the bay leaf adds flavor, it is inedible and either the cook removes all the leaves at the end of cooking or tells the diner to watch out for the leaves.

(3) Meat or not?

While it is common to make RB&R with some meat in it, it is also common (especially in restaurants) to leave the RB&R vegetarian and offer several different pieces of meat on the side. I've seen RB&R offered with: pork chops, smoked or hot or andouille sausage, fried chicken, and ham hocks.

(4) Low and Slow

Once you have everything in the pot, you want to bring it to a boil and then bring it down to a simmer. It's nice to cook this on a low fire for a while to get all the flavors well blended. From time to time, check the pot. Does it need more water? Are the beans tender yet? Does it need more spices?

(5) Consistency Level

I've seen various levels of thickness in different RB&Rs around the area. If it feels too watery, you can smash some beans on the side of the pot and blend them back in to the pot.

(6) And how to cook the rice?

Just follow package directions. I've seen a lot of variations: white or brown, short or medium or long grain size, parboiled or not. Some use a 1.5 to 1 ratio of water to rice, some use a 2 to 1 ratio. If your rice didn't come with directions, then try a 1.5 to 1 ratio for 20 minutes, but check to see if you need more water as you're cooking it. Stickiness is not a problem because the red bean sauce will usually break it down.

(7) Toppings?

At the table, the common additive to the dish is hot sauce. Other things that people add to their plate of RB&R are ketchup, BBQ sauce, vinegar, butter, and olive oil. Some will add some sliced green onions or parsley on top as well.

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Last edited: 08-Dec-2012 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at