I'm willing to bet that every conscious eater has a skeleton in his or her cupboard — a fetish for a particular corn-syrup-laced treat or microwaveable fat bomb. After all, we're not nuns here. So I'll confess first.
My processed-food addiction is to Goya black bean soup. It's unbelievably thick and gooey, with whole black beans entombed in slightly vinegary black-bean paste. I'm talking about the red can, NOT the blue can, which is just plain old black beans in water without the magic ingredient — monosodium glutamate, or MSG. (I don't experience any of the unpleasant side effects some do with this additive.)
This is my go-to meal when it's cold and rainy and I'm too tired to cook, or my stomach's growling but there's nothing in the fridge. I eat the soup plain, or stir in some chopped onions, a little salsa, and some grated cheese if I have them, then top with sour cream.
When I first moved to the Bay Area, I was a vegetarian, and I was used to eating these frijoles negros at least once a week. (It's high in protein, but mainly it was because I couldn't really cook then.) I scoured practically every Safeway and Mexican grocery store in the Outer Mission, where I was living, but I couldn't find the familiar red labels anywhere. Eventually, my dad shipped me a box to shut me up, and sympathetic enablers have been lugging them out to me, a few cans at a time in their suitcases, from the East Coast for the past 10 years.
And I was hoarding them, secretively. Which is why when I came home not long ago to find the Potato Non Grata having just eaten the very last can from my stash — even though there were lesser black-bean soups strategically placed around to distract him — I freaked.
"I'll buy you some more," the Potato shrugged. "I don't know why you're making a big deal; they're not even that good."
Let me tell you, hell hath no fury like a woman whose beans have been scorned as well as snarfed.
After coming home empty-handed from four grocery stores, he looked a little worried. Eventually he found some at Walgreens.com and bought them despite a two-can maximum (!) and $15 in shipping. Not wanting to be caught without my fix again, last time I visited my parents, I boxed up about 25 cans and checked them as luggage. And yes, I have been sharing my stash — and I'll do so less grudgingly since I've since found the beans more readily available online these days.
So there you have it. This Ethicurean loves Goya canned beans with MSG, and I'll even burn massive amounts of fossil fuel to get them — that is, when I'm not eating SOLE food.
What's your guilty secret? And more importantly, has anyone in the Bay Area seen Goya's red-label black beans somewhere I've missed? I've only got 14 cans left…