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How to Serve Elephant Beans

In “The Recollection”, a story in The Deadliest Deceptions, Phoebe needs to deliver papyrus scrolls to the clerks in the morgue, and Miriam agreed to accompany her.

Miriam describes their walk along Alexandria’s main boulevard, The Canopic Way:

We trooped along the Great Harbor past the clamor of warehouses, the shriek of foundries, the din of factories, and the squawks of pigeons fluttering around the grain bins. Beyond a row of vendors in shabby stalls hawking olives, boiled elephant beans, and honey-sweetened water, we entered a knot of narrow lanes. The shoulder-to-shoulder tenements fringing them were close enough to the saloons, restaurants, and inns to be fouled by their heaps of stagnant garbage.

So, what exactly are elephant beans? They are a variety of bean that is extremely large and rather porous. In Greek they are called Gigantes. They were a popular street food in Alexandria, even peddled at the games. Moreover, they are highly nutritious and easy to make.

The cooking time is long, 2 hours and 40 minutes, but the prep time takes only 10 minutes for four easy steps: Soak the beans overnight in a large cooking pot of tepid water, bring the beans to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, cook for about 2 hours, and bake in a hearty tomato sauce.

Before baking, add a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil and anything else, such as minced onions, sliced carrots, chopped garlic, chopped celery sticks, tomatoes, oregano, parsley, dill, and a bay leaf. For a detailed recipe with the amounts, click here. The meal tastes best served alongside a Miriam bat Isaac story. So, click here for some suggestions.


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