Rice and Beans for Lent

What is Lent, anyway? If you don't practice in the Christian tradition, it must be REALLY confusing. People walking around with ashes on their foreheads, giving up coffee, chocolate, or alcohol (and probably moaning about it).

Growing up, my Dad drove a 1959 Rambler American with a continental kit on the back. We called her Dumplin'. I remember a little magnetic reminder stuck on the dashboard: Live simply so others may simply live. That's what I think of when Lent comes around--how can I remind myself, in a daily way, that suffering is part of life? How can I focus my longings less on food, entertainment, and consumption, and more on justice, love, and sharing?

If you've been reading for any length of time, you know that our family as a method for this. Rice and beans every weeknight for the 40 days of Lent. I don't preach that everyone should do it, and it's not a perfect method for engaging this season. But, if you're interested in the rationale or logistics and thinking you might just follow along, here's the 411:

  • Once or twice a week, I'll cook a batch of rice (white or brown) and a big pot of beans (pinto or black). We reheat these every weeknight for dinner. You could certainly experiment with other beans (lentils, red beans, etc.) but the point is not to spend a bunch of time hunting down exotic beans. It's to free your money, time, and energy up for other things.
  • We'll often have a simple salad as well--just greens with a little vinaigrette.
  • Salsa, cilantro, chopped onions, and sometimes cheese accompany the rice and beans.
  • Weekends are exempt because it's too hard to control if we'll be home or not. But we usually end up eating rice and beans at least once on the weekend, too.
  • The kids are down with this. They like having more time to spend with us in the evening, and they happen to love rice and beans. I'm sure it would be harder if they complained, but I'd do it anyway. This lesson is as much for them as it is for us.
  • It's tempting to make up for the monotony with lunch, especially when I'm on my own, scheming about how to have work meetings at my favorite restaurant, for instance. I really, really try to resist this and eat simply at other meals as well.
  • This starts on Ash Wednesday--two days from now!

My hopes for our family this Lenten season is that we will deepen in gratitude for one another and for everything we have. I hope we can give the money away that we would have spent on a more varied diet, have more time to play together in the evenings, and recognize the millions of people in the world and in this country who are intimately familiar with suffering.

So what will this mean for In Praise of Leftovers? There won't be many recipes going up, but I plan to still write. Part of what can be so transformative about Lent is seeing things in new ways. I've got my camera, my never-ending thoughts, and I imagine those will make their way here. If you decide to try this in any form, I would love to hear about it and learn from you.

Lenten Loretta