The story of mutual aid is a long and compelling one. Examples from archaelogical evidence and personal documents are writ large upon human history. Presently, we are seeing its real potential realized in photographs of Occupy Sandy volunteers feeding FEMA workers in the aftermath of that storm. Government fail; people win. Mutual Aid is getting press, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer human tendency.
As anarchists, we understand the nature and importance of cooperation. Pyotr Kropotkin’s writings give us a myriad look at both human and non-human animals turning to mutual aid as a means to survival: cooperation and mutual aid mechanisms as factors in evolution. Here in the US, mutual aid associations were commonplace and fruitful until the advent of state aid, but that story deserves a fuller treatment at some other time. Today, let’s discuss black beans as mutual aid. Yes, a simple meal preparation transformed into thoughtful action.
First, here is a recipe:
1 lb. dry black beans
1 qt. cold water
6 cloves garlic
2 bell peppers chopped
2 large onions chopped
2/3 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1 T. vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
1 T. sugar
Soak beans overnight. Drain and rinse. Cover with cold water and boil for 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients, except vinegar and sugar. Cook slowly until soft (about 4 hours). Add vinegar and sugar just before they are done.
The amount of vegetables can be varied according to what you have available. This recipe has been a staple on our menu for years; it’s delicious and leftovers freeze well. I use mason jars for freezing, and it is in this lovely quality that mutual aid potential lies: Black beans, along with so many other prepared vegetables, freeze well. If you live alone, preparing large batches of something and freezing it is both cost and labor effective. If you have a friend who enjoys spending time with you, even better! You can pool ingredients and prepare meals together, splitting the end product via storage containers and walking away with several meals for half the cost! I know, it sounds magical: for a handful of garlic cloves, an onion and some salt and pepper (your portion of the ingredient pool) you get delicious black beans that can serve as the centerpiece of several meals! Only, it’s not magic, it’s mutual aid! Enjoy!