I wanted to run today. I wanted to run so badly. Run in sneakers. Not my usual bi-seasonal existential crisis sort of run. I mean, like, jogging. Pavement pounding, lung burning run. I wanted to listen to arguably lousy, inspirational pop music. And run. I wanted to run off my anxiety. Run off my fear. I wanted to feel strong. I wanted to build the fibers that my feeble frame is stitched of. I felt, sitting at that stop light, so determined. So fragile and invincible at the same time. I was jangling. And then it hit me I want to run off my…anger?! This came as a surprise. I’m not usually any more of an angry person than I am a runner. I see anger, as a general rule, as a middle man emotion. Might as well just skip to being hurt & afraid and get on with it. Anger always seemed a little cowardly to me—but maybe that’s because I’m a coward and anger scares me. Either way, I have a strong distaste for the stuff. But every now and then in my life I’ve found it very cathartic, dare I say healthy, to just get angry. Usually that’s when there’s no recourse, when it’s a situation where talking it out isn’t an option. Like if the person has passed away, or you’re completely estranged. Sometimes to say, if in front of no one other than myself or a trusted friend, this is not ok & they can seriously…insert various wildly creative expletives here is the first step to wanting to want to forgive.
So, in a fit of fierceness & fed-upness, I thought I’d take up running. But in the end I made you not-hummus-hummus instead. Bean dip. Not so fierce. And bean dip doesn’t sound very nice does it? Can we make up a word for the southern equivalent of hummus? Something exotic. I got nothing, guys. Nothing. But maybe tomorrow I’ll run. After my big plans at least, which involve making two different red velvet cakes, basically the antithesis of running. Well, considering so many of my meditations, my prayers, involve wanting to want and willing to will…finding the desire inside me was more than half the battle. Wanting to want health & healing is, interestingly, so often the hard part. Once you want it, you just run with it. Inspirational pun intended. Sorry.
Also, this isn’t hummus. I know. Words mean things. And hummus means, at the very least, that it involves garbanzo beans & tahini. This black-eyed pea dip decidedly does not. This is hummus inspired, a Tennesseean translation. Or bastardization. What have you. Tangy and smoky thanks to a hit of apple cider vinegar and sweet smoked paprika, it gets its sweet, earthy complexity from fresh ground peanuts (a nod to the tahini), a glug of good olive oil, and a drizzle of local, raw honey. Being a purist, I would have, if I had a stove (which I still do not…), cooked dried black-eyed peas with some mirepoix, a bouquet garni, and ham hock. I imagine properly simmered beans would make this recipe even better. That said, I used canned beans, and it was fantastic. Initially there was no honey, and while perfectly serviceable and delicious without it, it seemed flat.
Which brings me to one of my favorite points to make about seasoning: salt isn’t the end all be all. I use a holy trinity of flavors in almost everything I make: salty, acidic, and sweet. The medium for these flavors varies. Sometimes I use fish sauce instead of salt. Sometimes I use sugar others honey others agave. For acid, it ranges from citrus to various vinegars. When I cook I imagine every dish has these three knobs. And I tweak them ever so slightly. I don’t necessarily want my savory dishes to taste sweet—I just want that baseline of warmth that a subtle dash of sugar can provide, to bring out the earthy sweetness in the black-eyed peas, paprika, and peanuts in this instance. That is what I mean when I say “to taste”. Slowly but surely turning the volume up on this that or the other so that everything tastes more like what it is. When you reach perfect pitch, you’ll know. Because you’ll go from like to love. That’s one of the backbones of how I cook. Taste and tune. Balance
If I’d had that oven I keep lamenting not having yet, I would have made you some homemade pita to go along with this. But as it stood all I had around was a bedraggled bulb of fennel. Which, as it turns out, made for excellent dipping. I plan to serve this with seed flat bread and pickled fennel & celery root at an event that I’m helping put on with Ruthie Lindsey and Christian of 1924 & Travis of Manready Mercantile, An Evening With Kindreds, later this month. It’s just gonna be a bunch of what it sounds like, kindred spirits, makers & artists getting together to be together in Nashville, TN. And there will be a lot of southern fare from scratch if I have anything to say about it. Which I happily do! So this was recipe test number one for the event, and I’m so pleased with it—I get immense inspiration from translating global dishes into regional ingredients. The peanut butter and black eyed peas and apple cider vinegar…it almost sounds illogical. Yet it makes so much sense.