Did you know, Beautiful People, that Jack, the cute little protagonist of the old English fairy tale, was a shameless opportunist? Rather than retelling the story, I’ll invite you to enjoy this little old-fashioned musical number:
There are many variations of the classic story, where the adorable, lovable little boy outsmarts and eventually kills the evil giant who practices cannibalism. However, all of them agree on several details: first of all, the lovable kid is a lazy, no-good loafer who is no help to his poor widowed mother; secondly, instead of selling their last resource – the cow, he swaps it for some dubious “magic” beans offered by a very suspicious character, without even clarifying what exactly he is supposed to do with them – just grabbing at the first ephemeral opportunity that comes his way. No wonder the poor suffering mom fetches him a couple of good ones with her handy cast iron pan and tosses the f*** beans out the window! But wait, when the beans grow overnight into a monstrously tall beanstalk, he starts climbing it for no reasonable purpose – just because it’s there, and to top it all off, he robs the giant of all his treasured possessions: the bag of gold, the hen (or goose) that lays golden eggs, and the family heirloom – the golden harp. At least he could’ve left the latter, to console the cannibal and Mrs Cannibal pining for their losses!
And this is the story we still read to our children, Beautiful People? This is the lesson we are teaching them? “You don’t have to work hard, children; all you have to do is grab any opportunity that comes along, no matter how fantastic, inane, or even criminal,” – says little lovable Jack to generations of kiddies entranced by his adventures.
With all the variations of this story, I took the liberty of re-branding Jack’s image at least a little. In my version, having received the magic beans, on his way home Jack spotted some weird-looking mushrooms. Being in the magic mood already, he picked them, but, met with mommy’s cast iron pan, forgot all about them. In the morning, he felt strange buzzing in his pockets. Lo and behold, the mushrooms were growing without the benefit of soil. Pay attention now, children! Before starting his record-breaking climb, our hero has dumped the magic mushrooms into that same pan with which he was intimately acquainted and told mother to cook a nice nutritious dinner for herself. The transformation of Jack-opportunist into Jack, the loving and caring son, is complete, and following mother’s example, we can also start cooking.
As I’ve mentioned in the video, you can add any hot peppers of your preference, or simply increase the amount of Garam Masala, if you like it hot. As we all know, “Some Like It Hot”:
Inimitable, wasn’t she? She couldn’t sing, but of course, she didn’t have to. She reminds me of a famous Russian folk singer, Lyudmila Zykina, a big beautiful Russian woman who, fortunately, did sing very well:
Once, when she was touring Georgia (a country, not a state), she was forced to do almost two hours of encores, something unheard of. Georgians, who are reputed to love big beautiful Russian women, kept calling her back on stage with thunderous applause, until she finally staggered to the microphone and croaked, “Esteemed audience, I am sincerely grateful, but I can’t sing any more.” And a male voice from the audience responded, “Don’t sing, gorgeous, just keep walking back and forth, back and forth…”
I hope you forgive me this irreverent little tangent, Beautiful People, and appreciate the new politically correct image of little Jack-caregiver who gave me the idea of mushrooms and beans.
- 1/2 white button or baby portabella mushrooms, sliced thin
- 1/2 lb string beans
- 1/2 medium size onion, cut in rough chunks
- 3 – 4 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 inch ginger, grated
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp agave syrup (more, if not using wine)
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp light sweet red wine (optional)
- 1 cup Beefless Ground, or any meat substitute of your choice (alternatively, diced extra firm tofu)
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
- Preheat wok, Dutch oven, or deep frying pan on High. Spray with vegetable oil.
- Sauté onions for 1 minute, until soft and translucent, stirring constantly.
- Add garlic and ginger, sauté together for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add mushrooms, stir, cover. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add sesame oil, add string beans, add agave, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, wine, stir, cover. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add Beefless Ground or any meat substitute / tofu, add cilantro, add sesame seeds, stir, cover. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Serve hot, garnished with cilantro sprig.
About the guest author:
Dolly Aizenman is the brainchild behind Kool Kosher Kitchen (Which her blog and her book are named after).
This charismatic Russian blogger is fond of cooking and writing.
She has a BA in Art and Music Education, MA in English, MS in Education and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.