In memory of Jeremy: Rice and Beans

Today would have been our friend Jeremy’s 34th birthday. Last year when I emailed his mother on his birthday, she asked me to think of Jeremy when I eat rice and beans. We eat a lot of rice and beans in this household, so I think of him often, and I figured there wasn’t a better meal to make tonight in his memory.

Please excuse my even-more-lax-than-usual “recipe”. This was really casual. First I put some rice in the rice cooker and got that started. Then I took 8 oz of Rio Zape beans from Rancho Gordo and cooked them, unsoaked, until not-quite-done in the pressure cooker. How long did that take? Ugh, don’t ask so many questions – I don’t know! Until I sensed they were almost done, I’m afraid. I was outside doing other things while they were cooking and wasn’t paying attention to the time. Let’s say maybe 20 minutes?

When they were not-quite-done, I did a quick release and drained the beans. Then, in the pressure cooker to save a pot to wash, I heated some oil and then added a chopped onion. Once that was cooked to translucent, I added a bunch of pressed garlic, and continued cooking until it was all starting to brown. I deglazed with a bit of the red wine from my glass, then added about 1 1/2 cups veggie broth, two bay leaves, a healthy splash of Worcestershire sauce for tang, some liquid smoke, and a bit of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. Once that was all boiling, I returned the beans to the pot and let it all simmer until the beans were creamy, maybe another 20 minutes?

Serve with LOTS of hot sauce. If you haven’t had Rancho Gordo beans, by the way, you’re cheating yourself. You could use pretty much any bean in this “recipe”, and you’re definitely never going to go wrong with Rancho Gordo beans, which don’t even need seasoning. The Rio Zapes have the creaminess of pintos, but they taste almost like chocolate. And I don’t usually taste chocolate in things people like to say things like wine has “hints” of. They are definitely a flavorful bean.

I cooked for Jeremy every night when we lived together. I think he would have liked this. He may not even have pretended to grumble about the lack of meat. We miss you, Jeremy. “WHAT?” WE MISS YOU.

In other news, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about blogging over the last week or so. I’m starting to get much more serious about photography (although I’ve been “into” photography since high school), but I’m not going to lie to you: although I hope to improve my food pictures somewhat, I’m never going to be a great food photographer. Mostly because I cook in order to eat, and when I need to eat, I NEED to eat. I get bad headaches if I get hungry, and 99% of the time what you are looking at on this blog is my dinner – which I probably need to ingest right away. I’ve been finding myself thinking of blog posts I want to make, usually because I have pictures, but they aren’t about food. That’s not to say I don’t want to make food posts; I do. Very much. Even if they are more laid-back recipes like tonight’s. But I was wondering this week if I should set up a second blog for non-food-related pictures and rambling, so I don’t need to worry about straying too far off-topic here. I even looked to see if by remote chance or .net was available, which would match AND sound like an early Depeche Mode song (it’s not – available, that is; it IS an early Depeche Mode song).

The thing is, though, I didn’t really FEEL like setting up another blog. I could, easily. We have a server; I run other blogs for people. Adding another for myself wouldn’t be a big deal at all. But I just don’t know that I feel like dividing myself up that way. I think most of the readers of this blog would probably be at least somewhat interested in the other posts I want to make, because most vegans are interested in animals (and we’re mostly talking wildlife photos here), and anyway, I’m pretty sure most of my readers aren’t even vegan (which actually makes me very happy), and non-vegans who are open-minded enough to read a vegan blog are probably open-minded enough to not care if said blog sometimes features posts that aren’t about vegan food. Right?

What made up my mind, though, was when I thought about myself as a blog reader. I subscribe to a lot of blogs, and usually read most of them, but sometimes someone will make a post I’m not interested in, and you know what I do? Scroll right past it without even thinking. What I don’t do is think, “oh god, I can’t BELIEVE this person has gone off-topic, what a heretic!”. I don’t unsubscribe. I don’t think anything at all about it. It’s kind of crazy to think people are going to be upset if I sometimes unapologetically make a post to show off some pictures that have nothing to do with food. I don’t mind at all when food bloggers make an occasional post about themselves outside their cooking, in fact, I usually like getting a glimpse of them from a different perspective. So on that note…LOOK AT MY PICTURES THAT ARE NOT OF FOOD.

First up:

I’m not very pleased with this one because I should have used a smaller aperture so that the whole spider was in focus, but it’s a fun start to macro photography. This spider was about the size of my pinky fingernail; about half an inch long.

Like the spider, the following pictures were taken at Burke Lake Park.

I was stoked to come across some blue herons!

As I was heading back to the car, rushing a bit because I had a French lesson, I saw a squirrel way out on a limb over the lake.

I watched him slowly move ever further out, with some trepidation, wondering what in the world he was doing and whether or not squirrels knew how to swim, because I was going to be late meeting my tutor if I had to wade into the lake to rescue him.

Turns out he wanted a TWIG. Why he wasn’t satisfied with any one of the BILLIONS of twigs on the safe, sturdy GROUND, I do not know. (The twig is in his mouth in this picture, if you can’t tell. He’s feeling damn proud here.)

Suddenly, in one fell swoop, he was upside down and scrambling for dear life! Note, though, the twig is STILL in his mouth. This squirrel had his priorities.

Slooowly he righted himself.

Finally he inched himself to a thicker branch and had himself a good gnaw on his precious twig.

When he was done, he turned to stare at me like I was the crazy one.

I have some cute raccoon stories and pics, but I spent too much time on that ridiculous squirrel so I’ll save them for the next update! For now, here is the top of a pile of sleeping baby raccoons…


  1. Hannah Said,

    April 18, 2012 @ 2:47 am

    As a non-vegan-but-vegan-inclined blogger myself who posts about all kinds of ridiculousness as well as food myself, I absolutely think it’s wonderful that you’ve decided to start posting another passion of yours (and I say this as a first-time visitor who may not have commented if this post had been only about food. Actually, that’s a lie, I would have commented because two weeks ago I lost a dear friend, Jerome, at age 26, so would have definitely posted to offer support and sympathy for that synchronicity. I think I should close these brackets now.).

    The only, only thing that would have made me run screeching from this post on account of the non-food is that I’m really very arachnophobic so the first photo, being of a spider, made me slightly nauseous. Thankfully, the squirrel made my heart soar. BEST SQUIRREL EVER. And longest comment, too. I apologise for that!

  2. renae Said,

    April 18, 2012 @ 8:54 am

    Hi Hannah, thanks for commenting (and I love long comments!). I’m very sorry about Jerome. Twenty-six is far, far too young, as is 32, which is how old Jeremy was. I’ve had some time to acclimate myself to Jeremy being gone, but I’m sure your pain is fresh right now.

    Sorry about the spider! My husband is arachnophobic too and was not happy when he saw the pictures – I should have considered that before posting it! I’m glad the squirrel offset the creepy spider (and I agree, he IS creepy looking).

  3. rhonda Said,

    April 18, 2012 @ 10:36 am

    Oh my gosh, I love your pictures! And your food posts! (I’m vegan by the way.) Don’t create a separate blog because then I’d just have one more to add to my reader. 🙂 Great job with the squirrel, btw.

  4. Josiane Said,

    April 18, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

    The whole squirrel story is too funny! I love the second pic of that set: the all stretched out squirrel over the water is a great mix of cuteness and temerity!

    And now I’m craving rice and beans in the middle of the night… Your recipe might have been a very casual, even-more-lax-than-usual thing, you still gave just enough details to make it sound amazing.
    I think I’ve already told you that I love your cooking style even when it’s more “suggestion” than “recipe”, because that’s totally how I cook too, to the point that I would find it really hard to guesstimate how much of each ingredients I have used and write down a recipe. I really admire your ability to do so! And I totally get that taking the time to take great pics of your food when you’re hungry must be a pain sometimes…
    Feel free to share whatever else you’d like to blog about, I’ll happily follow along! I came for the food, sure, but *you* are what made me stick around, and that involves all that makes you *you* – the food, the photography (vacation pics, infrared pics, etc.), the crafts, the animals, and whatever else is to come. 🙂

  5. Jes Said,

    April 19, 2012 @ 8:21 pm

    I just lose it whenever you post pictures of the racoons. No, really, there’s squeeling going on in the western half of the state.

    Also, as much as I love Depeche Mode and your rambling about it, simply, hell yeah, post your photos here! I’m a photo person and love seeing yours, so please do keep ’em all in one place. So much easier. And more fun. And, as someone who posts non-vegan pictures of food, I’m totally down with the idea of “if you aren’t interested, just scroll on by without looking.” No need to worry about readership–anyone who leaves is just plain dumb since your writing and your food and your photos are superb.

    And, ((hugs)) on the Jeremy’s birthday. I know what it means to lose someone like that, not easy. While I never knew him, I’m sure he would have loved your beans. They look fantastic.

  6. Lisa Goldstein Kieda Said,

    April 19, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

    Hey Renae –

    Keep one blog – Renae centralized, as it were. So I’m okay with spiders and with all manner of lovely beast and fowl. However, you have not posted enough about what YOU ARE READING. So -please continue posting your photos of food and animals friends – but also give me your reading recommends.

    Your Utah friend, Lisa

    PS. I just finished reading: The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Marchart (recommend – 10/10) and am reading In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (recommend – 11/10).

    With sincerity, Lisa G/K

  7. susan Said,

    April 20, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

    I’ve been enjoying the mix of recipes and photos that have been showing up here the past year. I love love love the raccoon photos and would love to hear more about the care you give them. There can also never be too many pictures of your cat kids.

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