Friday, April 27, 2012

Rice and beans à la Hannity

Earlier this week, Sean Hannity explained to his radio audience why poor people needn’t go hungry:

I have friends of mine who eat rice and beans all the time. Beans: protein. Rice: inexpensive. You can make a big pot of this for a week for relatively negligible amounts of money for your whole family and feed your family. Look, you should have vegetables and fruit in there as well, but, you know, if you need to survive, you can survive off it. It’s not ideal. You can get some cheap meat and throw in there as well for protein. There are ways to live really, really cheaply.
Hannity no doubt has no idea what he’s echoing. Here’s what John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939) says in a chapter telling the story of industrial agriculture in California:
Now farming became industry, and the owners followed Rome, although they did not know it. They imported slaves, although they did not call them slaves: Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Filipinos. They live on rice and beans, the business men said. They don’t need much. They wouldn’t know what to do with good wages. Why, look how they live. Why, look what they eat. And if they get funny — deport them.
That reference to “cheap meat” also makes me think of The Grapes of Wrath, and of the Joad family’s staple diet: pork, potatoes, biscuits, coffee. No fruits or vegetables, except for the peaches that young Ruthie and Winfield eat while picking (and which give them horrific diarrhea). Almost no dairy products either: the family buys a bottle or can of milk just twice. The storekeeper who sells Ma Joad some hamburger would fit well in Hannity’s picture of things: “That hamburg is purty nice stuff. Use the grease that comes out a her for gravy. Purty nice. No waste. Don’t throw no bone away.”

And Hannity no doubt would nod in agreement when the storekeeper says “I ain’t guaranteein’ I’d eat her myself; but they’s lots of stuff I wouldn’ do.”

comments: 9

Diane Schirf said...

The underlying message being "be content being poor"?

Michael Leddy said...

Seems so.

Michael Leddy said...

Though he also says you can work your way out of it.

Elaine Fine said...

Last night's dinner chez nous? It was rice and beans. Tonight's dinner? Leftover rice and beans. Once you start adding things to the rice and beans that make them tasty, you need to spend some money (green peppers, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, thyme, etc.). Perhaps what Hannity is saying is that if you are poor you should be able to survive on tasteless foods and be content.

Anonymous said...

Gosh and golly, you're listening to Hannity? Now there's a chuckle.

Michael Leddy said...

No, I overheard. Or rather, read about it, a couple of days after the fact.

Elaine said...

Actually, Hannity even had that wrong. For a complete protein, one needs both the rice and the beans. I used to eat black beans and rice with freshly chopped onion--delicious!--but nowadays the onions bite back.

We have beans often; I especially love Michigan yellow-eyes and Habichuelas Romanas, though Great Northerns are my go-to beans. I ask you, why should poor people get all the good food?

Michael Leddy said...

He’s got both the beans and rice there. It seems though that you don’t need to eat them in at same meal.

As Elaine Fine’s comment makes clear, we eat beans often, by choice. It’s the idea of telling people they ought to survive on rice and beans (no fruits, no vegetables) that made me think of a Steinbeck connection.

Elaine said...

Oh, there is no doubt one needs other things besides the protein serving. I somewhat regard it as aesthetics, I confess, but in truth it's a necessary balance of fiber, vitamins, and so on. An apple a day is not a bad idea, it turns out...