Beans, beans, the magical fruit, each January 6th, it is thee we salute. Yep, today is National Bean Day, and though there seems to be little reason behind the holiday's designation, that shouldn't stop us from celebrating with some of L.A.'s best beans, like the lusciously creamy ones that fill the burritos at El Sinaloense or a bowl of the preternaturally addictive Cajun fried black eyed peas served up District.
National Bean Day also affords us an opportunity to brush up on the legacy of the great legume – and so to honor this auspicious occasion, we bring you 5 Great Bean Events in History.
5. Hugh Grant Baked Bean Incident (2007)
After allegedly kicking an offending Daily Star paparazzo three times, the camera shy actor resorted to lobbing legumes before being arrested for assault. Describing the incident to the Star, photog Ian Whittaker said that he was left “bruised, battered, and covered in baked beans.” Guess Grant didn't realize that baked beans have their most vicious potency after consumption, not before.
4. Cicero Named for a Chickpea (106 BCE)
According to Plutarch, the great Roman orator Cicero was named for a relative with a garbanzo-like proboscis:
For “cicer” is the Latin name for chick-pea, and this ancestor of Cicero, as it would seem, had a faint dent in the end of his nose like the cleft of a chick-pea, from which he acquired his surname.
3. The Black Bean Episode (1843)
In a precursor to the US-Mexican War, 176 soldiers from the newly formed Republic of Texas escaped internment only to be recaptured by Mexican forces. Insisting that he was showing mercy, Mexico's President Antonio López de Santa Anna Mexican decided not to execute the whole bunch, opting instead to shoot ten percent of the prisoners. To determine who the lucky 17 would be, Santa Ana held a “bean lottery,” placing 17 black beans in a pot with 159 white ones. Those who drew black were killed on the spot, while the others remained imprisoned until September 1844.
2. Beatles Pelted with Jelly Beans (1964)
At the height of Beatle-mania, UK fans, upon hearing that George Harrison loved the British confection Jelly Babies, took to lovingly hurling the candies at the band. But when the Fab Four toured Stateside, American fans had to settle for a Yankee substitute – jelly beans, leaving a beleaguered Ringo to comment, “Some of them even threw them in bags, and it hurt like hailstones.”
1. Bean Prohibitions (5th Century CE and late 1500s)
In his excellent book, Beans: A History, Ken Albala reveals that St. Jerome cautioned nuns from eating beans because of their effects on the digestive system inappropriately “tickled the genitals.” A similar warning was issued by 16th century British physician, Thomas Moffett who wrote that though fava beans were safe to be consumed at the beginning or middle of a meal with butter, pepper, and salt, they were better avoided altogether because they “too much encreaseth the seed to lusty wantons.”
But we're no prudes – so go grab your sweetie, a big bowl of baked beans, and celebrate this January 6th with some good old fashioned legume lovin'.