August 13, 2019 - Written by: Nancy Pollard
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Food Films For Families

Working Films. org image for What's On Your PlateSince we have our grandsons here, and it is so hot, we are streaming — the 21st century version of going to thebook cover of New Southwestern Cooking from Amazon video store, which we used to do with our daughters to to select films for home viewing. Of course I want the boys  to see films about food beyond Ratatouille and Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. The inner change-the- world part of me wants them to look at  sustainability in our food sources, best food choices, consequences in what we eat, but not be too preachy.  So I found some documentaries:  What’s On Your Plate, Bite SizeA Plastic Ocean and then the juiced up film from a book my children loved, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs.

Out of nostalgia I even dug up the recipe that we used to make for home film watching and family get-togethers. And as fate would have it, it is based on black beans and goat cheese.  What could be more relevant to this charming film?  This is a recipe from a book written in 1985 by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger, titled New Southwestern Cooking.  We will be presenting it again for a new generation of food film watchers. 

Black Beans With Goat Cheese And Jalapenos
Serves 10
A surprising crowd pleaser with ingredients that are good for you!
  1. 1 lb black beans, sorted and rinsed if needed
  2. 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  3. 2 large epazote leaves or 1/2 tsp dried epazote or 1 large bay leaf
  4. Sea salt
  5. 2-4 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
  6. 2 garlic cloves finely minced
  7. 1/2 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  8. 12 oz mild goat cheese
  9. 2 bunches scallions
  1. Soak beans several hours or over night in about 3 quarts water.
  2. Drain and cover them with 2 inches of water.
  3. Add the three garlic cloves and epazote or bay leaf.
  4. Cover and cook until beans are soft enough to mash - this can be 1-2 hours.
  5. Salt the beans for taste and allow to stand for 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350F
  7. Drain beans and reserve cooking liquid.
  8. Mash the beans well, adding liquid to make a fairly loose paste.
  9. Mix the peppers, minced peeled garlic and cumin with the beans and add more salt if necessary
  10. Crumble goat cheese and trim and slice the scallions thinly.
  11. Layer about one-third of the beans in an oven proof casserole.
  12. Cover with about one third of the cheese, then one third of the scallions.
  13. Make another layer of the beans and one with the second third of the cheese and scallions
  14. Cover with the remaining beans and bake for 15-20 minutes - beans should be heated through.
  15. Just before serving, sprinkle the remaining goat cheese and sliced scallions.
  1. It is best to use a potato masher or large mortar and pestle: a ricer does not work.
  2. This is an obvious match for corn chips, but makes a great taco filling with pork or chicken.
  3. I have used it for quesadillas too.
Adapted from New Southwestern Cooking
Adapted from New Southwestern Cooking
Kitchen Detail

Lessons From Beans and Water

But the surprise film that provoked some interesting conversations was The Milagro Beanfield War. It is based on a politically acute  comic novel by Universal Pictures image for Milagro Beanfield WarJohn Nichols. Apparently the film is not as good as the book, according to critics. But as a Capra-esque fable directed by Robert Redford, my kids loved it. This is not a powerful or dramatic film, but rather one that can be just enjoyed as a tale about life and the beyond, about growing beans, and who owns water. And of course it pits a downtrodden town against a wealthy land developer. It’s not a bad thing for kids to see that a community can be formed around an issue that is necessary to human life.  Not bad either that they see  that the road to this community’s salvation is full of potholes. And some of us enjoyed seeing Christopher Walken and Melanie Griffith before they became uber famous. 

On a more sophisticated level, water as salable commodity is an Anglo American concept, whereas in other populations (Hispanic in this case), water is a shared resource for agriculture and  community sustainability. And as a minor theme, the importance of journalism over media marketing is hard to miss even if you’re a kid.  

On a more current events note, I read a revealing story from the LA Times. This controversy has reached a new level of Karma Spanking.   Thousands of acres of land in the Southwestern region of the US is being bought by Arab companies to take advantage of the antiquated American riparian rights laws.  Alfalfa, a water intensive crop, is currently grown on these acres, to the detriment of communities who need the water.  The harvest from the crops is shipped to Saudi Arabia and Arab Emirates. Field wars aren’t always fiction.

Watch the Trailer for The Milagro Beanfield War



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