Ever hear of the "black valentine"? It's a kind of bean that Sacramento's Steve "Chili" Smith uses for a tasty bean dish and two types of cornbread.
The black valentine was one of several kinds of legumes that visitors to Sunday's Heirloom Bean Picnic sampled at the historic McFarland Ranch. Hosted by the Slow Food chapters of Lodi and Sacramento, the bean picnic provided the opportunity for visitors to learn all about beans, their health benefits and how good they can taste.
"We hear that food is too expensive, that only rich people can afford good food," said Paolo Di Croce, secretary general for Slow Food International, who lives in Italy.
Di Croce, in Galt on Sunday as part of a four-day tour of Northern California, promotes beans as an important dietary component, and shares the joy of beans with people in less fortunate parts of the world.
"We are part of the same world," Di Croce said. "We have a little less than one billion people who do not have enough food to eat. But we have 1.5 billion people who are obese."
The healthiest way to prepare beans is to get them fresh and soak them overnight before preparing them instead of buying fast food, Di Croce said.
"It's the change in mentality we are looking for," he said.
Ken Albala, who wrote a book called "History of the Bean," also talked about the 10,000-year history of people's relationship with beans.
Sunday's picnic at McFarland Ranch provided the opportunity for people to sample different bean recipes, including two made with beer. It also provided Mohr-Fry Ranches the chance to promote the eight varieties of beans they produce.
Susan Tipton, an Acampo resident, is president of the newly formed Lodi chapter. For more information on Slow Food, email Lodi board member Randy Caparoso at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.slowfoodusa.org.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.