I learned last week that you cannot eat soybean pods. Or…do not? Should not? I’m still not entirely clear if this is a biological or purely social function.
Is it poison?
Prior to this, I would sit at restaurant tables, hands on polished wood that gleams like honey, and pop one – pop two –three – four – pods into my mouth and enjoy the whole thing. Little green boats between my lips. The beads inside ricocheting off my tongue, the furry body of the pod like lamb’s ear, veins of stem and stuff all swirled together. I always left the little gleaming white bowl just as gleaming and white. Innocent winks of light deep in the cup. Untouched.
No. That’s incorrect. You cook the whole wee boat of soybean – once the pale fingers on a plant, draped between the leaves like thick strands in a wild beard – but leave the skin when you eat. Leave the skins behind until that tiny and innocent white bowl with some obscure pattern overflows with the torn shards of vegetable hair.
Because once you cook a soybean, it’s no longer a “soybean pod” – it’s “edamame”, and you sit at the polished honey table like a good upright animal and drag the skin between your teeth, popping pearls of bean into your cheek, and gently set the sad flag of spent pod in the bowl – and this is perfectly acceptable. This is how it is done. Take it out of your mouth and put it in this shared white bowl in public, because you don’t eat the pods. That’s cooking. That’s eating. That’s a natural segue:
Tonight at 7pm, Louisville gets a taste of bestselling author and famous foodie, Michel Pollan , as he brings his latest book of gastro-journalism to the Clifton Center  for a special interview with Wendell Berry. Hosted, of course, by the fine folks at Carmichael’s, Pollan will present Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation and discuss how the elements – fire, water, air and earth – bring the fruits nature to our eager gleaming plates.
The author of six previous books, including famous titles In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan has taken readers on numerous journeys through factory, field and forest to explore the hungry human animal and his relation to the natural world. Turning now to the curious science happening in his own kitchen, Pollan tackles the art of cooking, apprenticing himself to chefs of every stock in an effort to discover how elements – fire, water, air and earth – fulfill our bellies. Visiting everything from the smoky pit of a South Carolina BBQ king to the stainless steel fortress of a Chez Panisse-trained master, Pollan’s Cooked uncovers how food-handlers grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread and ferment everything from cheese to beer (this last one sounds most acceptable), transforming both the social and gastronomic aspects of our lives.
Joined tonight by academic, farmer and truly prolific author, Wendell Berry , Pollan will sit for an interview and discuss how this latest exploration into the global tummy of mankind further teaches us hungries to reclaim the arts of cultivating, cooking and eating real food on a planet so attuned to plastic and processing. Copies of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, are on sale at both Carmichael’s locations in hardcover for $27.95. Worth devouring every page is my educated guess.
I have a plate of little pods here in front of me. Clear dots of water bespeckled on their slender haunches. From the steam. From the cooking. From whatever it is that happened someone on the journey from “plant-in-the-ground” to “edamame”. And now shards of green in the bowl while we sit for an appetizer on the first day of May.
I still like to eat the whole pod when I’m alone. Lamb’s ear fuzz. It’s a texture thing.
The Clifton Center is located at 2117 Payne Street. For more information, visit the event page .
Image: Courtesy of Carmichael’s Bookstore website www.carmichaelsbookstore.com