The Good Book
Before we talk about these garlic green beans, let’s talk about Food Rules. If you ask me for one book recommendation, this will be it. Food Rules, by Michael Pollan, is rightly subtitled “an eater’s manual.” I found it helpful when making diet changes, because it’s a collection of aphorisms—little bits of wisdom—that Pollan gathered and neatly tied together with the thesis “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s it, a seven word answer for the person wondering: “What should I eat?” Simple, right?
Simple, but not easy. We live in a nation where more than one-third of the population (including children) is considered overweight or obese, where we are reminded every day that health doesn’t come easily. Take lack of education (okay, what do I do with these green beans?), add income inequality (high-caloric, inexpensive processed foods are the obvious choice for people with low discretionary incomes), taste preferences (these begin to form in the womb!), and a largely sedentary, work-obsessed culture, and you can begin to see the root of the big problem: it is hard, in a country that doesn’t value work-rest balance and ethically-produced food, to live in a way that honors both.
Whew, enough ranting for now. I get excited because it’s not all bad. We live in a time of consumer choice, where more people are finding a better balance in between work, rest, and the work of eating. Therefore, as a disciple of the church of mostly plants, I’m going to show you the approach that worked for me.
The Bad Backstory
I had the opportunity to train in classical ballet for fifteen years and never worried about what I ate, or how it would affect my weight, because it didn’t. Then I got to college, dreams of being a prima ballerina dashed, and I didn’t know how to exercise out of the ballet classroom. The short version of the story (perhaps more on this later) is I graduated twenty pounds heavier, then worked for a year to lose those twenty pounds, which taught me that losing weight is damn hard.
The good news is whether you’re trying to lose twenty or two-hundred extra pounds—or maintain the same weight—the principles are the same: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (And exercise!)
Let’s Julie & Julia this thing.
The first rule: Eat Food. Well, duh, but what Pollan means is eat real food, not “edible food-like substances,” which, as we’ve discussed, is harder than it should be. For this rule, I’m sharing my favorite way to prepare green beans. It involves four ingredients and a simple cooking method that cuts down on added oil, to avoid masking the flavor of the green beans with unwanted fat. My dinner guests are often pleasantly surprised at how little effort it takes to produce this delicious side.
I’ve got 83 rules to get through: want to follow along with me? If you make these garlic green beans, snap a picture and tag it #eatingfoodrules—I want to see!
- Two servings of green beans
- Drizzle of fresh, high-quality olive oil
- Two garlic cloves
- Sea salt to taste
- ⅛-1/4 cup water
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Rinse and trim the green beans and place them in your roasting pan.
- Run some water in the bottom of your pan, no more than a ¼ cup (you'll want the water to evaporate during cooking, so you don't have to drain them).
- Cook the green beans 5-15 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like them. I like them somewhere in the middle: not super crunchy, but not totally cooked.
- When the green beans are done to your liking, press the garlic cloves in a mixing bowl (you can use less or more garlic), then add the green beans.
- Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and toss to coat!