As yesterday was the last day of Lent, Jen and I decided to celebrate by eating lentils.
Although we both quite enjoy the taste of lentils, we don't eat them very often, and had never cooked them before. But somehow we managed to muddle through, transforming what might have been a relatively inoffensive vegetarian dish into something rather spectacular involving pancetta and pork sausages. In a word: absolutely delicious.
It was only as I was tending the simmering lentils that it occurred to me I had no idea what a lentil plant looked like. Lentils are pulses, so I guessed they hatch in some sort of pod. This morning, I verified my hunch on Wikipedia:
The lentil (Lens culinaris) is an edible pulse. It is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, known for its lens-shaped seeds. It is about 40 cm (16 in) tall, and the seeds grow in pods, usually with two seeds in each.
Whoa! Hang on a second! Two seeds per pod!? Have you seen the size of a lentil? They're not exactly filling. I reckon I ate at least a thousand of them last night. That's 500 (presumably minuscule) pods to shell. 1,000 pods, if you count Jen's portion. Who in their right mind is going to cultivate those? You'd have to be bloody nuts.
According to the same Wikipedia article, lentils were invented by aceramic Neolithic types in the Near East. I can't help feeling they might have spent their time more productively actually coming up with ceramics, then perhaps moving on to pancetta and pork sausages.
(Don't get me started on Brazil nuts.)