Midnight in the Garden of Bean Dip


I have a big mouth sometimes.  In addition to my affinity for making outrageous claims to Mike, just to see if he’ll buy it, I also make sweeping promises in the spirit of the moment which I have no intention of keeping.  This happened again a couple of months ago.  We were at a friend’s house, the third or forth bottle of wine had already been decanted, and Mike was talking about how he had signed up to run a marathon this year.

Mike: “I’m really excited about it, but also a little bit scared.  I mean, a marathon is REALLY, REALLY long!”
Tina: “Aw babe, I know, but you can DO IT!  You’ve done half marathons before, you run almost every day, and I know that it seems daunting but you’re bloody determined and I KNOW you can do it!”
Mike: “Maybe…I don’t know…I think maybe this was a mistake……”
Tina: “It’s NOT a mistake!  I have total faith in your abilities, and you know that I’ll be right there, cheering for you on the sidelines!  In fact, I’ll go ONE BETTER.”  <dramatically puts hand on heart> “If you run the full waterfront marathon, I’ll do…..THE 5K!”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I regretted them. I do not run.  I do not enjoy running, which is an activity that I associate with panic stricken desperation, bodily harm emergencies, and three-for-one shoe sales.  I have run a total of two times in the last ten years.  Once it was because I thought I heard an ice cream truck (it was actually a knife sharpener – what kind of God would do that to a person?), and the other time I can’t remember at all, but I’m sure it must have happened.  Pssst….see what I mean about the outrageous claims?

Running is actually how they kill overweight smokers, did you know that?  If you want to ‘off’ that obese neighbor of yours, the guy who’s hacking butts outside in his garage, set up a treadmill in the back yard and watch the panic glisten in his eyes.  It’s true.  This may actually be a 5k run where the finish line is my inevitable demise.  Oh, OH, and you know what’s even more humiliating than possible death by the hand of a mini-race?  They group people according to demographics when they calculate the run stats, so you have to tell people your (real) age, and then they separate out the fatties and make us run in our group of grunting overweight chubbers so that we don’t drive down the average time of the skinny athletic elite.  And fine, give us our own heavy weight classification so that we can feel even more like we’re in the Special Olympics*, but then they call us NAMES!  Awful names!  I don’t want to be a Quarter Horse, or a Holstein or whatever our group is.  I am not at all happy with this situation.

* Despite my flippant comment, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Special Olympics.  I mean, crikey, thems got the skillz.  As somebody who can’t even catch a ball unless it’s with her face, any display of athleticism impresses me, particularly when people go above and beyond to challenge our schema of what an athlete is or looks like.  That’s just my two cents.

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s a 5 kilometer run.  For those of you who aren’t down with the metric, that’s just slightly over 3 miles.  Nothing, right?  Except that I DO NOT RUN. At all.  I’m about as athletic as a two toed tree sloth, and the thought of putting on clothing made of lycra and going out in public almost makes my heart stop.  When I sobered up and started trying to wheedle my way out of this devil’s bargain, I started went the first objections that I could find:  I have no kit.  No gear.  No shoes. Sure, I have 55 pairs of high heeled sandals, but sneakers?  Not so much.  Mike drove me out out to the Nike store later that week.  Now I have shoes.

But…but I didn’t have…um….an adequate sports bra!!!  Well, yes, maybe I did have a sports bra (or 4), but definitely not an adequate one.  If I have to run, I want to make sure that the girls are staying put and not trying to race me to the end zone.  I had visions of lying crumpled on the side of the road, having been TKO’d by an unruly flying knocker when I tried to build up speed.  Mike drove me back to the Nike store.  Now I have an adequate sports bra.

Surely though, he couldn’t expect me to go running without proper clothes!  Runners always have their…running stuff on.  I couldn’t possibly go out in PUBLIC where people will JUDGE ME for wearing brown yoga pants with a black hoodie and my new pink trimmed trainers.  That’s just a fashion abomination that I wanted no part in, and I was certain that my adoring partner would not inflict such woe and misery upon me.  Turns out he would.

So I went for my first run.  Well, it was really more of a brisk walk with periodic trotting here and there for 2.5 km, but you have to start somewhere.  And then I came home and collapsed on the front stoop.  The door just seemed…so far away.  I contemplated sleeping on that stoop, knowing that eventually Mike would have to come home and when he did he’d notice me for sure as he stepped over my possibly dead body on his way inside.  And then maybe he’d bring me a beer.

However, after an hour I was starting to feel better.  In fact, I would go as far as to say my body felt…alive. Finally those G.D. endorphins had kicked in, and I was feeling powerful and strong! So what if I was walking a little bit wonky, it was totally worth it after all and I couldn’t wait to tell Mike that he was right about this whole silly running thing!

Then after three hours the pain started to hit.  My legs were throbbing.  My feet hurt.  My stomach hurt, which boggles my mind.  And now?  Still in pain.  LOTS OF PAIN.

I had plans for dinner tonight.  Maybe not big plans, but plans nonetheless.  I was going to make a Macedonian style pasta in a roasted garlic, feta and red pepper sauce, we would have some salad and a glass of wine, and then I would go finish my laundry and assorted odds and ends that I had been putting off.  That didn’t happen.  Instead, I sat in a chair and moaned until Mike (finally) brought me a beer.  And as for dinner?  I went with the least amount of effort possible:  bean dip with pita and veggies.

Veggies and dip are pretty popular in our home, and bean dips often play a leading role.  After all, they’re full of fiber and protein, relatively low in fat, and they take T-2 minutes to make from start to finish. Chickpeas and white beans are usually the base for our bean dips, but when I went into the pantry today there was a can of black beans which had made it’s way to the front of the shelf, and there it sat looking at me.

I shook my head at the black beans.  “No, my friend, I’m sorry, but I promise that we’ll meet again soon over a Southwestern salad or some Cuban rice.” The beans stood steadfast and brave, looking straight at me and challenging a justification about why they could be so quickly passed over.  “But Black Beans,” I said, scuffling my foot and staring at the floor in embarrassment, “It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s just that you’re so…dark and…uh…unattractive when you get pureed.” The beans narrowed their eyes.  “Fine, but then you’re going to have to help me help you, understand?  You’re going to have to be FLEXIBLE, and move out of your comfort zone.  You’re going to have to fly from the Southwest to the Middle East.  Do you really think you can do that?” The beans took a minute to contemplate, and then pitched themselves forward into my hand.

And I’m so happy that they did.

Midnight in the Garden of Bean Dip

  • 1 can black beans (19 0z)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2.5 tsp za’atar spice blend *
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds **
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

* Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that normally contains dried herbs, toasted sesame seeds and salt.  Za’atar (aka zataar, zat’r, zahtar, etc) is like Garam Masala in the way that the blend changes according to who mixed it and which area it is from.  My favorite is Lebanese za’atar which normally contains marjoram, oregano, thyme, cumin, coriander, toasted sesame seeds, salt, and sumac.  Sumac has a tangy, almost lemony taste, and it is also what gives za’atar the distinctive dark color.  The spice blend can be sprinkled on flatbread before it gets baked (we used to eat this for breakfast when we were children), added to labneh (yoghurt cheese), used as a condiment to sprinkle on top of cooked food, or mixed with olive oil and used as a dip for breads or meat.  When you’re using za’atar as a spice blend in cooking, be mindful of the fact that it already contains salt and adjust your seasoning after it has been added to the mix.

** I forget at least one thing every day.  The black sesame seeds did not make it into this picture, so just pretend, okay?


Rinse the black beans under cold running water to remove any starchy sludge from the can.  Drain the beans in a colander and then pour them into the bowl of a food processor.

Cut the garlic into several large chunks if you like, which I tend to do because even though I adore my food processor one can never be too sure.

Add in the spices and black sesame seeds, squeeze in the juice of one whole lemon, and drizzle in the olive oil.


Puree the mixture until it’s smooth.  Canned beans vary in terms of moisture, and if it still seems a bit dry add water a tablespoon at a time until you have a consistency that you’re happy with.


If you like, sprinkle the mixture with a little bit more za’atar blend and/or some black sesame seeds.


This Middle Eastern style bean dip is great served with cruddite, but I love the angels and demons contrast of the mysterious dark dip beside pillowy and innocent white pita wedges that are just waiting to be defiled.  And yes, I watched a lot of Saturday afternoon movies when I was a child.  What of it?


There are days for making dinner, and there are days for soothing your suffering with the tender balm of exotically spiced, smoky and lemony bean dip.  In fact, if I could pack this dip as a poultice on the physical and psychological wounds that I’m feeling after my first day of ‘running’ (quotations necessary), I would.


Note:  Mike just corrected me.  It seems that I will not be labelled a Quarter Horse after all.  They call the fatties CLYDESDALES. Will the humiliation ever end?  I’m going to pretend that I never heard that.  If you need me, you can find me in the corner – sitting sorrowfully and eating bean dip, contemplating how to effectively break a toe without too much pain.

  • BJ

    The dip sounds wonderful – and loved your story. I tried to get in shape to run a half marathon at Disney last year – I’m in my 60’s – and thought I’d die. Fortunately, I was able to quit training after the trip was called off.

    Hey, being called a Clydesdale wouldn’t be so bad….they are big beautiful strong horses. And have you ever seen them in a parade pulling the Budweiser float? Incredible animals.

  • Alison

    FIrst – I adore the name of this recipe. Second, anything that involves such a temptingly exotic sounding ingredient such as za’atar needs to be made! And finally – good for you! You have the bra and the shoes and you RAN!!! That is very exciting – and even if you feel as though you’re the slowest and least graceful thing on the roads, there’s still such a sense of satisfaction that you did it!

    Ryan and I should come visit: we’ll cook, shop, and go for a loping, disjointed gallop round the ‘hood!

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo!

    Mmm. This looks like my kind of dip. Love za’atar. And black beans.

    Great story, Tina!
    You won’t catch me training to run ANYTHING (I can do many a physical thing, but a runner I am NOT)– so you have all of my respect and admiration.

    Oh, yes — and I’m with BJ. Clydesdales are fantastic creatures. The BEST horses of all, if you ask me.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com Kristie

    Oooooooh! Tina!! You guys had to know I’d be excited about this one!

    If it makes you feel any better, the men are called “clydesdales” and the women are called “Athena,” who is the goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice, skill, and I’m pretty sure bean dip. Also, if it makes you feel any better, the Athena category is for women 140 and up, which means that on any given month, I waver between being an athena for about two weeks, and a very hungry runner for the other two. And 140 is NOT very much for a girl to weigh. It’s actually well below average. So almost all women are athenas, and none of them register as such. You only have to declare yourself as such if you want to win in the athena category.

    So, basically, good for you for running the 5K. I have a friend who just lost 30 pounds training for our wedding 5K, and she came to love it. Endorphins are the shit. And so is bean dip.

    Also, Mike, when is the marathon? I may have to run up in Canada, eh, sometime.

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver

    Running is EVEEEEEEEEEL!!!! =D

  • Sandra

    LOVED the story – hysterical…and I can totally picture you telling it in person! My shoes were made for walking…not running!

    Your dips are always fantastic…thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    BJ – what an inspiring story!! And you’re right – anything that pulls a Budweiser float is right up my alley 😉

    Alison – I AM the slowest, least graceful, and most disjointed feller in the hood. If you want to visit, you know that I always have a room for you. If not, I can send some za’atar courtesy of Canada Post….

    Lo! – you guys make me feel so much better about being a fatty.

    Kristie – I was hoping you would comment, Ms. Runs-a-lot-athletica!! Are you serious that the women are called ‘Athena’? Because she was always my favorite. I mean, c’mon, the goddess of wisdom AND war? holy heck. And her symbol is the owl, and I was a Brownie/Guide, and now I’ve probably lost you because nobody else will understand why I find this so awesome. 140lbs, eh? That’s B.S. Seriously. Shouldn’t there be a height to weight ratio or something?? Because if I was 7 feet tall, I would TOTALLY look hot. But I’m not. And if I was 5 feet tall I’d look a whole lot worse…. maybe I should declare myself as an Athena anyway, if only to make myself feel better about the shitty time that I’m bound to earn.

    BTW, you have a WEDDING 5K? You guys are crazy people….that I adore.
    The marathon is in…uh….August or September? I keep thinking that it’s early September so that I’ll have more time to get ready, but I could be wrong about that. Mike???

    TS – I concur.

    Sandra – Aw, you can totally see the bug-eyed outrage, can’t you?! And thank you, that’s very kind. You know that any gathering at our house will have a veggies and dip, of one iteration or another!!

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