Vanessa has asked me to write a celebration of the lentil « in a witty, inspiring way with nothing to do with hippies and hairy arm pits. » So that leaves…well let’s be frank, not a whole lot. Well I’m just blown away with excitement!
The lentil is a leguminous (now there’s a word one uses every day) plant yielding lense-shaped seeds. It is these seeds which are used as food once the husks are removed. This unhairy loveable legume is a good source of protein (and fibre!); is packed full of minerals and those flighty B vitamins that we all lack; has more folic acid than any other fortified food – one cup gives 90% of the recommended daily allowance and is a good source of iron. It is low calorie, low fat and helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, useful to stave off cravings for those partial to snacking and of course essential in helping to control diabetes. So there you go. That’s the boring part over.
Now to the F word. We may be able to overlook the baba-cool and hairy armpit reputation of old but flatulence remains a real and significant fly in the ointment. In our house lentils are banished as highly flammables along with open petrol cans, bbq gas canisters, dried apricots and my own bête noire French Onion Soup, the effects of which were discovered on a thigh clenching turbulent flight to…ha! how I would love to write Chicago, the famous windy city, but I cannot lie, Luton.
Back to the life enhancing virtues of the Lentil. It is a superfood ! Traces of which have been found in Egyptian tombs, in bronze age dwellings on St. Peter’s Island in Switzerland (Lake Biel near Neuchâtel, I googled it) and so enamoured Barbara Striesand she wrote a whole movie about it (but insisted on using the Yiddish spelling)!
Every year in the State of Washington, The National Lentil Festival is held with thousands of sandal wearers flocking to taste the famous Lentil Chili, have their photograph taken with Lentil Man and partake in the Lentil flipping pancake competition. Rumours are local methane levels are right off the scale so keep those tent flaps open and careful with matches…
Unlike other legumes, this under-appreciated perky pulse doesn’t need a good soaking the night before but let’s face it alone on a plate it is like a wet dog left out in the rain. It needs some company to jazz it up – or at least a warm towel and a good rub down – preferably a spicy accompaniment that will take your mind off its dull but good for you counterpart, and make you feel a heady giddiness taking home the brazen hussy. But like all one night stands you know it will only end in regret and a chastened feeling the next morning as you realise you over-did the harissa sauce and didn’t eat enough of the lentils to keep you from riding the roller coaster of the low blood sugar train.
It can be eaten either hot or cold, added to soups, stews and salads and comes in several colours: green being the most popular, followed by a to-die-for yellow and a racy red. When paired with spinach and lemon or fried shallots, cooked apple and mint, it will go to the ball turning into a tasty exotic staple which is good for you too.
The lentil is back – be it as a « nouveau hippy » food – even in my kitchen as I have been informed that a strip of dried seaweed thrown into the pot absorbs any toxic side effects. That’s cool man.
Copyright Jules Ritter 2007