A Theory of Lima Beans

In his first letter to the Christian church in Corinth, St. Paul says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I set aside childish ways” (1 Cor 13:11). I can relate. Once I realized the significance of lima beans, I set aside my childish ways and became a man. What, exactly, were the childish ways I set aside, and how did I become a man?

During my boyhood, my mother would serve lima beans to the family on a regular basis. She didn’t cook them every week as in “Sloppy Joe Wednesdays,” but they appeared often enough for me to develop a revulsion to the slimy things, which had the texture and taste of unflavored toothpaste. I used to moan about having to eat them not unlike Bush 41’s insistence that, as President of the United States, no one–not even his mother–could force him to eat broccoli. I’m not certain, but he may have stamped his foot when he said it.

When lima beans were set out for dinner, I would do all I could not to eat them, including subterfuge. For instance, I was not beyond scooping them into my napkin and rolling the napkin into a tight-fisted ball, which I would dispose of as I brought my dish to the sink. This worked, or so I thought, until the night my mother confronted me about the “baseball” on my dish.

Then one day something happened. I don’t know why, but the insight came to me that if I accepted lima beans instead of fighting them, dinner would be more enjoyable and life easier. This happened at a time when life was getting complicated. So, I accepted lima beans and developed the habit of eating them before anything else on my plate. That way, I was free to enjoy the pasta and meat with complete ease. I even convinced myself that this new approach would result in better grades and my face clearing up. How did my acceptance of lima beans help me grow from a boy into a man?

First, the recognition that they exist. There can be no doubt that these slimy legumes are out there the same way that sin and death lurk out there. Evil exists. Lima beans are tangible proof of this (as if anyone needed it), although God undoubtedly loves them and is proud of them in some way beyond my comprehension. Now that I think of it, I’ll have to go back and see if Dante mentions them in L’Inferno.

Second, given that lima beans exist, they must be confronted head on (just think if Britain and France had done that in Munich). That is, they must be eaten before everything else. As the Italians put it, prima il dovere, poi il piacere (duty first, then pleasure). Anything short of that gives lima beans–and the flaw in existence that they are an expression of–free reign to corrupt individuals, families, and societies. You see how important getting this right is.

Lima beans remind us that if certain things were “meant to be,” there are forces in the universe that prevent these things from happening. The job, the lover, the contract, the house. They would have been perfect, so what went wrong? The injustice overwhelms us and can plunge us into depression.

The lima beans of life block “meant to be” through some strange configuration that nihilists, alarmists, and people with perpetual grimaces on their faces call chaos. That these people exist is yet more proof of the existence not just of lima beans and evil but of their inevitability. This begs the question of the origin of evil. Why do lima beans exist in the first place? I think they are a manifestation of Original Sin. Somebody somewhere messed up. We can blame Adam and Eve, but we continue to make the same mistake throughout the ages. What mistake is that? The obsession to fix things that aren’t broken. Is life good now? I can make it great. Watch me.

It is interesting to note that lima beans go by another name: butter beans, which sound delicious. But be warned. Butter beans are as tasty as that other pretender to gustatory happiness: butter milk, which is an inherently evil food. Don’t believe me? Try it. Go on, be a mensch.

Top photo by Carlos Machado from Pexels. Middle photo by Joey Huang on Unsplash. Green snake by Marius Masalar on Unsplash. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a proud member of The Free Media Alliance. Happy 18th birthday to Daniella Rose, the Secret Redhead.


  1. Robert, Thank you! I enjoyed your post on so many levels. Yes, lima beans and liver come to mind. Covering these and other challenging foods with ketchup, a lot of ketchup , was my strategy. I’ve just discovered the answer to a mystery: Why I never used ketchup on anything as an adult?

    Another point, yes, my mother served these foods regularly. I wonder if my mom had a menu sheet, hidden away? Probably not. I was thinking how different menu planning and parents’ food responsibilities seem these days. Moms and dads ask for family input and serve dinners buffet style. In some families, children “micro” the meals of their choice and sit down meals are for special occasions.

    I wonder whether the absence of community in some places (the idea that watching a television program, listening to music, choosing a restaurant, that these choices are not about me all of the time) could be related to lima beans and liver? Learning about the joys and challenges of community can be caught and taught, but how and where? A kind of Vision Quest towards becoming a community member:)

    So many levels to your lima beans, St. Paul’s Letter, and becoming a mensch, Robert! Wow! Finally, I often think of the way Jesus taught the people, when I read your posts, Robert. Blessings:)


    1. That’s exactly what I thought about writing this–how my experience of dinner with all of us sitting down to eat–is a rarity nowadays. In fact, it seemed quaint when I reread the draft. But that would have taken me elsewhere and, alas, at 750 words, I have to make choices.

      One thing your comment did was to remind me to thank my mother when I see her later this month on her 83rd birthday. For the dinners. For the lima beans…

  2. When I was a youngster I was a pure carnivore. I enjoyed my starches and sweets also. My parents would give me an edict that if I didnt eat my vegetables I couldnt have desert.
    My Father would always throw in a line like I should be thankful for the bounty. And eating brussell sprouts would be pennance and mortification for all the poor starving people in China or India whatever his disposition would dictate at the time.
    In the year 2019. The Average Chinese Or East Indian American’s median income probably doubles my own and I presume they have homecooked fuller bellies than mine also. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first”

  3. This rumination on the Tao of lima beans made me realize that my list of evil foods is quite long – I always thought I wasn’t picky. However, the true manifestation of Original Sin is pickles. Any pickles, no matter how little and ‘cute’ they may be, thus luring the unwary snacker.

    Also, did you know that lima beans have other aliases? One is ‘Burma beans’, which sounds rather jaunty and appealing!

    1. Ann, I enjoyed your post! I can relate to your discovery of less preferred foods, and yes, pickles are on my list too:)

      A teacher once asked me to meditate on the koan, “There is nothing I dislike.” Regarding foods, that would be difficult!

      1. Thank you!

        I can say with all certainty that just thinking the words, “There is nothing I dislike”, would set a list in motion!!

      1. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKK!! Now I’ll have nightmares. However, someone has to eat them. I’ll stick with brussel sprouts and beets, two unpopular vegetables that I adore!

        1. Wow, friends! Beets, pickles, Brussel sprouts! I’m impressed. How about snap green beans, broccoli, and baked butter nut squash? Yum-now I’m hungry:)

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