Sometimes Love Tastes Like Red Beans and Rice

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F_Osheta

One of my favorite weekly traditions since we moved to L.A. is Couple’s Dinner. When we meet a couple we like, we invite them over for dinner one weeknight to get to know the fam, have a good meal, and share our stories. I plan the menu and T.C. makes sure to be home with enough time to whip the kids (and the house) in shape.

I love everything about Couple’s Dinner, except the meal planning. Every single time my husband and I decide on a couple to invite over, I send them the same email: “Hey, TC and I like you and we’d love to have you over for dinner. Let me know your allergies and preferences, and I’ll put together a menu. What’s your favorite kind of food?”

And every time, they email something back like, “Hey! We’d love to and we’re flexible!”

This flexibility has been troublesome for me. My sister used to joke that I’m a Black Martha Stewart and I come by it honestly; I need plans and parameters, recipes and requirements, and lots and lots of fresh cut flowers.

Our most recent Couple’s Night guests sent a gracious email saying, “We love food, so whatever you make would be great” and the Martha in me just lost it. In those moments, I totally get why Jesus told Martha to calm the heck down, because I was seething! I spent that evening whining to my husband.

“Seriously,” I began, scrubbing away at the range with my excess frustration. “Why can’t these people be vegan or gluten-free or something! Why do they have to be so laid back and ‘whatever’ about their preferences? Don’t they know I’m over here going crazy trying to plan a nice dinner for them? I feel like I’m stuck making roasted chicken and veggies at Couple’s Dinner … again!”

“Well … babes … why don’t you make something else? Why don’t you make something you love to cook? You haven’t made Red Beans and Rice for Couple’s Dinner yet. You should do that!”

I looked at my husband playing on his phone as if he had just suggested I add maple syrup to grits and try to pass it off as “Breakfast Risotto.” Why in the world would I make something so common, so everyday, for our guests? He clearly had no interest in helping me make a good impression, build lifetime friends or achieve ultimate happiness. Red beans at a dinner for new friends, is relational suicide.

First let’s get real, y’all: beans make you gassy and nerves make you even more so. If there’s anything I DO NOT WANT TO DO, it’s to have to go to the bathroom for longer than 10 seconds or—even worse—accidentally pass gas around new people! Flatulence and forever friendship just don’t mix.

Now, let’s talk economics. Red Beans is our family’s frugal time go-to. Oh snap, we had to pay more in electricity this month—it’s red beans for a few days. We’re trying to save for a family trip? Cool, I’ll make beans for a week. We’re giving a little extra to that missionary who visited church this month? Ok, beans it is!

Making Red Beans and Rice for our guests felt like admitting we’re on a budget. It felt like a failure. Sure, I can make a huge pot for guests and it’ll provide dinner for our family for several days after, but the vulnerability required of me to make such a universally frugal meal for guests was just too much to bear.

And finally, if being prissy and prideful wasn’t enough, I added perfectionist to the bundle to round out my entertaining hang-ups. There’s not much I can do to gussy up red beans and rice. It’s simple: 1 lb of red beans, one chopped onion, two cloves of garlic, a bay leaf and water. Later on you should add some Tony’s and let that simmer for several hours, and there … dinner is served! It’s a completely laid back dish.

I love red beans for my family. I love it for myself. But, when my husband suggested it, I didn’t love it for my guests. It didn’t feel “enough.” Too simple. Too common.

“Just think about it, babes,” he countered.

I rolled my eyes, sat down to plan and made a terrifying discovery: Couple’s Dinner would fall on my son’s tenth birthday. The very son who asks for red beans and rice for his birthday dinner—every year. This boy loves red beans and rice so much he not only wrote it into one of his essays for school, he asked me to specifically teach him how to make it because, “it’s the one thing I’ll cook for my wife.” There was no way I could get around it: we were having Couple’s Dinner and I was making Red Beans and Rice.

The morning of Couple’s Dinner came and as I soaked the beans and chopped the other ingredients I prayed. I prayed for peace and acceptance and that my stank attitude wouldn’t ruin the dish. My godmother used to tell me, “The most important ingredient, Osheta, is love.” In that moment, I realized that all my prissiness and pride and perfectionism were the antithesis of love.

So, while the beans cooked, I prayed that love would spill out from the pot onto the table and around my home. Slowly, the Martha in me was tamed. Our friends came over and we celebrated my ten-year-old. We played question games around the table, and sang the Stevie Wonder version of “Happy Birthday” to my son and yes, I served them rice, beans, sausage, and cornbread. Total meal cost: $11.68.

While I couldn’t boast that I served the most perfect rack of lamb or the table setting was flawless, I can say I loved. I loved with every bean and grain of rice and crumb of honey cornbread. And I think, no, I know, that one ingredient was enough.

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Osheta Moore
Osheta Moore is an Anabaptist-y, stay-at-home mom right in the thick of moving her family from Boston to Los Angeles . She's passionate about racial reconciliation, peacemaking, and community development in the urban core. At the top of her bucket list is dance in a flash mob—all the better if it's to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" or Pharrell's "Happy." Catch up with Osheta on her blog, Shalom in the City.
Osheta Moore
Osheta Moore

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  • HBurns

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this because I see myself so much in this. I’d come to your house any day for red beans and rice and I know I would taste the love in there too.
    Beautiful post Osheta… perfect! xoxo

  • Red beans and rice! Yum-mee! Ask me around for dinner, girl.

    • I wish I could, Bev! If only you lived closer…

  • Scribbling down the recipe and the menu.
    Who knew we’d get good theology AND food prep ideas at SheLoves on this Monday morning?

    • I hope you liked it and I’m so glad you commented!

  • Holly

    “In that moment, I realized that all my prissiness and pride and perfectionism were the antithesis of love.”
    This struck deeper than I would like to admit. But I so appreciate you sharing how you were able to turn this perspective on its head and let LOVE rule. Thank you, Osheta.

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    Isn’t strange how a dinner can rile up one’s emotions? I can completely relate to the anxiety and pride aspect you describe above. In my culture, food is friendship, family, fellowship, so we generally over cater for our guests. I appreciate the reminder that it’s not about what you prepare, but the love that is communicated through, and added to, the meal. Great wisdom Osheta. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome, Nicole. I love how you put this, “culture, food is friendship, family, fellowship” I really want to create a culture like this for my family, since my parents were so antisocial and quite about our heritage. Thank you for sharing!

  • O! What I would give for a big bowl of your red beans and rice right now!!! <3

  • Joy Howard

    My heart swells with delight at this because my mama always let us kids choose birthday menus too and so I can imagine the happiness of your son so vividly. 🙂

    • he was so happy and so touched I made his favorite meal…and our guests like it too! Total win! Thanks for commenting.

  • Anne-Marie

    Osheta, I’m with Tina – mouth watering by the end, and glad for the recipe! I was smiling when your son’s birthday landed on that day and you had to pony up with the beans. I’ve found myself all too often grumbly at the sink lately. Your choice to find your way to responsive and heart-kind is a good challenge to me today.

    • I’m so glad you’re challenged. It’s still a challenge for me, even after all the holiday hosting.

  • Love this! Such a great reminder for love and true hospitality when it’s too easy to focus on image and all the things. Thanks, Osheta!

    • You’re welcome, Sarah! I can’t think of another woman who is more hospitable than you, so I’m super honored this post spoke to you.

      • You’re too kind! Can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for your writing! 🙂

  • Megan Gahan

    This is wonderful, Osheta, and a rather timely reminder for me. I live in mortal terror of having guests over, as I struggle with coming up with an impressive enough meal to serve. My family likes our food simple, and the crockpot is in constant rotation. I needed a little nudge to see the beauty and familiarity in a comforting meal, and not letting it get in the way of throwing the door open wide. Beautiful words.

    • I hope you keep your crockpot busy with all the meals you prepare for friends. There’s really so much life around the table to be had, sometimes the introvert in me is so over having people in my space, but it’s so important. Thanks for commenting!

  • Saskia Wishart

    Uhm yes to food on a budget! Also, friends you can pass gas around… seems like friends for life if you ask me!

    • right?!?! flatulence in the ultimate friendship litmus test ;)!

  • fiona lynne

    I *just* texted a friend who is coming with her husband for dinner later this week asking her what they eat and got that same “anything” reply. Then she added, “perhaps not so helpful as per Osheta’s post today” 😉
    So now they get something simple and easy and made a hundred times before! Thanks for this post. You sum up everything I believe about hospitality but all too often forget.

    • You’re welcome and I so hope your friend enjoyed the “anything” you made.

  • Sonya

    I love your writing. I love having people over. (I hate how I obsess over what to feed other people.) And I love red beans. Thanks for writing this.

  • Pingback: SheLoves and Red beans | Osheta Moore()

  • Osheta, I would eat red beans and rice with you ANY DAY, girl. Any day.

  • Missindeedy

    I couldn’t love this line more, “Slowly, the Martha in me was tamed.” YES! I can identify with that feeling that what I’m offering is not enough. Great reminder that we are already enough. Loved this.

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one! It’s hard to not get a sense of self worth and identity from my offerings.

  • If you’re interested. Here’s the link to my red beans and rice recipe on my site.
    https://oshetablogs.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/sheloves-and-red-beans/

  • You make this sound SO good, Osheta. Now I want to sit at your table and have red bean and rice … I can feel the love.

    • Thanks for letting me be a woman who loves this community with my stories!

  • “I looked at my husband playing on his phone as if he had just suggested I add maple syrup to grits and try to pass it off as “Breakfast Risotto.”” That is such a perfect metaphor, I love it! I had to camp out for a minute on your closing paragraph – I couldn’t boast I served the most perfect meal. . . . but I loved. So simple and so profound. Thank you for this.

    • You’re welcome! I’m so glad you commented.

  • Hannah Kallio

    We were vegetarians for years, and we cooked for lots of guests during that season. And my husband and I had this EXACT conversation, more than once. It’s hard to let people, especially new people, into your actual, everyday life. More than once I wasn’t emotionally available for guests because I was preparing some elaborate dish “for them”, and I had to face the fact that I was doing it more for me. When people cook an everyday meal for me, that feels more intimate than a fancy production.

    • Oh, I’ve been there- slaving away over some intense dish while everyone’s in the other room laughing and connecting. Why do we do this to ourselves? I love your phrase, “emotionally available”- i really want to lean into that at every couples dinner from here on out. Thanks for commenting!