As a result of posting my claypot recipe, I have become friends with an amazing writer, artist and cook. It seems that claypots are always used by women who are triple threats. Her name is Sue Clancy and she has a very unique and beautiful website, http://sueclancy.com. Sue was gracious enough to share her recipe along with some of her artwork. What follows is Sue’s story.
When I began college at the University of Oklahoma in the mid 1980’s I didn’t know how to cook. Boxed meals, sandwiches and cold cereal were my mainstays. I was enrolled in the College of Fine Arts and a student could submit a portfolio of artwork and apply for studio space in a building adjacent to the college. I applied and was approved for studio space and discovered that there I was the only freshman. Everyone else was either a junior or a senior so I became known as “the kid”.
In the studio building there was a good sized kitchen with a large refrigerator, a stove and a dining table. I began keeping my baloney and cheese on Wonder white bread sandwiches in a labled brown sack in the refrigerator.
I hadn’t been a studio resident for a month yet and didn’t really know anyone else. So one day I sat alone at the table eating my sandwich when in came two of the other resident artists. They bustled about and soon joined me at the table. “Hey Kid, what are you eating?” said one in a decidedly non-Oklahoma accent.
I admitted to a baloney and cheese on white bread.
“That’s disgusting!” exclaimed the second in an even more intriguing voice. “Well, what have you got?” I asked pointing to their exotic-to-me looking plates. One had hummus and tabbouleh salad she was scooping up with pitas. The other had a black bean salad she was eating with small soft tortillas. All of their food was homemade. They each gave me small portions of their food and my tastebuds were enchanted. I was totally impressed and said so.
They invited me to join their bimonthly Saturday supper potluck club. The way it worked was each club member would take a turn hosting at their dorm room or apartment and we’d each bring a dish to share. If you wanted to learn to make a dish you went early and helped the member cook. Since my kitchen skills were nonexistent it was agreed that my contributions would be doing cleanup and being a general go-for. (“Hey, Kid let’s have some more forks and napkins over here.”)
The regular members of the supper potluck club came from California, Spain, Brazil, Israel, Vietnam and India. I was the only person from Oklahoma. All of us were studying some form of the arts: writing, architecture, graphic design, music or painting. Frequent topics of dinner conversation ran along these lines: How to make it in the Arts, how to sustain creativity as a business, how to deal with misogyny, homophobia and bigotry, how to cope with the feast/famine financial aspect of the Arts…as well as talking about food and life.
Quickly I learned to take my sketchbook with me and take notes – including notes on how to cook many of the dishes. After a several months of regular potluck attendance I reread my sketchbook notes and I noticed that we’d had some form of beans and rice at every dinner. I shared my observations at the next supper club and we discussed how the ability to cook dry beans (and make rice) is an essential life skill. No matter how poor or rich you are if you have beans and rice you can eat well!
They each began to help me, over subsequent months, to form a “magic bean method” that would enable me to reliably cook any dry beans: pintos, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans…any dry bean! This is where I got the “Magic Beans” recipes I’ve sketched, typed out and shared here.
Also discussed at supper club was the best kind of pot to cook beans in. Unanimously a clay olla was named “best bean pot” because of the round belly and small mouth general shape of the pots. However at that time the clay pots were out of the realm of my college student budget. One of the women knew that there were aluminum olla pots (the IMUSA brand makes one) and even though the aluminum one didn’t have a smaller mouth it had the correct rounder belly sides. (And it was affordable for a college kid!) There is a flavor difference between the beans cooked in the two pots – the clay pot giving the most depth of flavor – but the aluminum pot still gives very good beans! During my college days I formed an ambition that someday I would have a clay beanpot!
From the supper club I learned to cook dry beans in both aluminum and clay olla beanpots and also how to use the cooked beans in dishes like “bean and grain bowls” so that my meals could vary from one meal to the next even though the beans were the same. This way one doesn’t get bored with a large batch of cooked beans. It’s magic!
Fast forward a few years after college graduation and I met my current spouse. As I’ve cooked meals for us over our 25 years together I’ve made notes of our favorite meals. Dishes with beans in them rank highly! And after we moved away from Oklahoma we got a clay olla beanpot! I love it! I still use my aluminum pot but the clay pot really is best.
Eventually I made a single sketchbook of mine and my spouse’s favorite recipes and reproduced it as an artist book titled “Favorites So Far”. Many of the recipes in this book contain things I learned from my college supper potluck club. Included in the book are my Magic Beans recipe and Bean And Grain Bowls recipe.
And my supper club was right: knowing how to cook, especially how to cook beans, is an essential life skill – especially as an artist! During any turn of fortune in the many years since then the mantra has been “we’ll get through this because at least we know how to make beans!”
Sue Clancy’s Plain Magic Beans as made in a 4.2 qt Stoneware Clay Olla/beanpot
2 cups of dry beans (sort first and remove rocks or detritus)
12 cups of water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Optional: 1 teaspoon Epazote (if you’re concerned about gas the herb Epazote is a good preventative.)
Instructions: sort beans into the clay pot. Add the olive oil and then the water. (add the Epazote if using) Turn the heat on very low and slowly raise the temperature until the beans begin to boil. Reduce heat dramatically and let it simmer on a low heat for 3 to 4 hours without lifting the lid. After 3 hours taste a bean. If it’s not quite soft let the beans cook longer. When the beans are soft add some salt. Then cook another 10 to 20 minutes. Taste again and add more salt if needed. Drain the pot and transfer the cooked beans to a tightly lidded container and store in the refrigerator. Use the cooked beans over the week in tacos, burritos, soups, salads or bean and grain bowls – adding spices, sauces, vegetables, grains and meats as desired when reheating the beans.
I hope you have enjoyed meeting Sue and will wander over to her web site. Attached are some other ways to read and enjoy her work.
Talk soon, ❤️💕 Bernadette
My artist book Favorites So Far https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far
My website https://sueclancy.com/
My Instagram – @artistclancy – https://www.instagram.com/artistclancy
My Facebook- www.facebook.com/sueclancy.thisartiststudio