Foodie Fail 3: A Lentil by Any Other Name Will Ruin Your Recipe

It’s summer time and my food thoughts have turned from wintery crock pot soups and stews to salads with beans, grilled vegetables, and lentils. Should be easy enough, right? I dug into the recipes from last summer and despite my memories of having made a number of salads with beans, all I found was a lentil salad recipe. Hmm, maybe I am drinking too much. Anyway, no problem, I really like that recipe, and I know there is no limit to online bean salad recipes that I can look for.

Off I went to the store to get the ingredients. As a non-foodie, I go with lowest priced, most recognizable foods, so I always make this recipe with the Stop and Shop brand lentils. Don’t judge, I come from Depression-era people. But I aspire to be more of a foodie, so this time I remembered something my coworker said about always using French lentils because they were better. I’d never seen French lentils at Stop and Shop, but no matter. I can be a grocery store tramp and when I was having a one-day stand in a different store, I saw red lentils. My English major brain said, oh, that must be like French lentils and I bought them. Why I made this illogical leap, I can’t tell you, except that making these kinds of leaps always seemed to work when writing essays for English class exams, so I blame the education system.

When I consulted my recipe, I was excited to see that it said I could replace the French lentils with red lentils. Ha! I was right! Even better, it said the red lentils only require five minutes of cooking. Now, I’ve died and gone to heaven. The Cheez-Whiz girl in me found a way to make her meal even faster, and still healthy! But then I referred to the package of red lentils, which said to cook them for 20 to 25 minutes. Hmmm. That seemed odd. They are smaller than the lentils I usually buy, so they should take less time. Plus my recipe said red lentils take five minutes. But I’m a foodie newbie, so what do I know? Surely the packaging would be correct, right? I mean, why would it lie?

Why indeed.

So there I was, letting the sanctioned-substitute-for-superior-French-lentils cook as I chopped the other ingredients, happily excited about the first lentil salad of the season. I had everything together and then checked on the red lentils, about 13 minutes into cooking. I peered in and my hand holding the pot cover hovered and froze. The pot contained yellowy mush, formerly known as separate lentils. The recipe had been right. WTF? How could this happen?  I was betrayed by packaging. Was there nothing left to believe in?

Everything else was ready, and I didn’t have any more lentils, so there was only one thing to do: I made lentil mush salad. I put all the ingredients together and mixed them with a heavy heart and a big spoon. I might as well have been mixing muffin batter for crying out loud, which is kind of gross if you were going for a salad. I persuaded myself it would be like eating flavored mashed potatoes. And the thing was it did taste like the usual lentil recipe; it just looked like a high school cafeteria accident. I ate the mush all week, but by Friday, I just couldn’t take it anymore. There was only a small amount left, and I had to send it down the disposal.

So what’s a foodie failer t like me to do? Stick with my Stop and Shop lentils, that’s what. I clearly can’t trust the red lentils, and the French lentils are way too coy. I can only imagine what sort of trouble the beans will get me in–red, pinto, navy, white–there is some serious bean shit out there. With any luck, they will be blog worthy.

 

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