Striving Bean

Beans and Culture


I grew up in a suburb. Probably not the type of suburb you may envision. It had no McMansions, no mega shopping malls. It’s an older 1st ring suburb just outside of Saint Paul, MN aptly named South St. Paul.

South St. Paul is a blue-collar working class suburb. Several auto-body shops, townie bars, and a pizza joint or two. And many residents of Eastern European decent. There’s the Serbian Hall, the Croatian Hall, and Romanian Orthodox Church just to name a few Eastern European establishments.

So where does one find authentic Mexican food in South St. Paul? The food that my family craved so much?

We had to leave town to go to the nearest Mexican market. A journey that seemed, when I was a kid, like a million miles away.

Google Maps says it is 4.5 miles from where I grew up.

From the sights, sounds, and appetizing aromas, it may as well have been on the other side of the world.

My family had to get its weekly supply of pinto beans and chorizo, along with peppers, good tortillas, and pan dulce. And when we were much MUCH older, Rosca de Reyes made an appearance at Christmastime. (I think my parents were afraid one of us would choke on the Baby Jesus at our young age.)

I went back to the Mexican market the other day with my two children. I loved bringing them and wondered if they were thinking the same things I was at there age (Wow – where exactly are we?)

I took them down the bean aisle and wanted to show them what I knew was going to be there.  In a Mexican grocery store, you’ll surely be greeted by a comprehensive selection of beans.  Canned and dry. Both typical and mega size packages.

Bean aisle at the Mexican market

Beans are staple  in a Mexican household.   Frijoles refritos on the side – es necesario.

Frijoles Refritos – Comfort Food.

Did you know?  Not only can beans be used for comfort food, but used in recipes in all sorts of creative ways.

Dark Chocolate Cookies made with Black Beans
Dark Chocolate Cookies made with Black Beans

Like pesto rice and beans, pasta salad, even black bean cookies and bean muffins. Not necessarily Mexican cooking, but borrowing a concept from Mexican culture: beans are a staple and they’re wonderful food.

We’ll take many more trips to the Mexican market.  My kids loved it (and the pan dulce).  I’m looking forward to perusing the bean aisle and teaching them – beans nourish us both physically and culturally.


This was originally posted at Spanglish Baby’s Culture of Food category. is a fantastic site dedicated to helping parents who are raising their children to be  bilingual and bicultural.

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