Here’s how this happened: I was shopping for a few cleaning supplies on a large and very popular home goods website. I needed to spend six additional dollars in order to get free shipping. Who among us hasn’t been in a similar situation and ended up with a shitload of pens? I decided I’d rather have $6 worth of chickpeas, which I cook with regularly, than pay for shipping, so I popped two cans of chickpeas in my cart, and completed my checkout. Typically, three dollars for a can of chickpeas would have given me pause, but this is a global pandemic and I’ve paid $4 for a head of garlic recently so my spidey senses are somewhat askew.
When the box of items arrived, it was heavy. Very heavy indeed. This was the first point at which I became concerned. Upon (disinfecting and then) opening the box, I discovered that instead of two normal, non-frightening cans of chickpeas, I was now the proud owner of two № 10 cans of chickpeas each weighing approximately six pounds each. I cannot understate the level of my alarm.
I should mention at this point that I am a single woman who lives alone and my cat does not eat chickpeas. The situation was sticky to say the least. I was intimidated by this turn of events, and sort of just stared at the cans on the counter for awhile. Is it even possible for one person alone to find use for six pounds of chickpeas? Twice? I was overwhelmed and intimidated and it took a week before I felt confident enough to attack the problem.
The Chickpea Challenge began one Sunday morning when the weather was set to hit 75 degrees for the first time this year which is really when you want to be using your oven nonstop all day. I formulated a plan of attack, and decided that the chickpeas wouldn’t get the better of me, nor would I generate waste during these times of difficulty. I settled on a variety of uses that had practical applications for my week ahead, as I typically devote my Sunday to meal prep anyway. I kept the plan simple, so as to set myself up for success.
The plan was thus:
- falafel, as meal prep for the week ahead and perhaps to freeze
- hummus, as meal prep for the week ahead
- roasty seasoned chickpeas as a snack for mid-challenge sustenance
- a chickpea-based chocolate cake
Honestly, I didn’t even know if I could open the damned thing. I looked at my cheap can opener from Target and had doubts about its abilities. Seriously have you ever opened a №10 can? It’s scary! It’s an intimidating amount of volume and once I’d opened the first can I’d resolved to leave the second can in a hallway somewhere.
My first moment of real woe came when I measured out the amount of chickpeas required for a large batch of falafel and found that I hadn’t made even the slightest dent in the can’s contents. The first falafels that went in the oven also came out looking like slightly green pancakes that were too soft even after the full baking time to even lift off the cookie sheet. I wasn’t off to a strong start. But I would have to address that problem later.
While the falafel were baking, I undertook the task of shelling the chickpeas I’d need for my hummus. Shelling the chickpeas of their gross exterior skin makes for hummus of such superior texture that it’s actually worth spending 45 minutes shelling chickpeas. I found that FaceTiming a friend during this task sped it up considerably.
If I’m honest, the hummus was the most successful project of the day. Smooth, delicious, and currently sitting in my fridge waiting to provide a tasty base for this week’s lunches, which are falafel bowls, or as I’ve affectionately taken to calling them: Chickpeas Two Ways.
After I’d completed the hummus endeavor, bear in mind I’ve now washed my Cuisinart twice, I drew up a new battle plan for the falafel, as I was reluctant to waste the batter and also my giant can of still-pretty-full chickpeas was laughing at me in the corner.
I decided to give the falafel structure the same way I give extra structure and nutritional value to my meatballs: I added ground walnuts to the batter as falafel scaffolding. It worked, and I’m now the proud owner of a week’s supply of falafel with a few more hanging out in the freezer just for grins.
Following these two major tasks, I designated an amount of chickpeas for my roasty chickpea snacks, and seasoned them accordingly. I’ll admit to measuring out far more than I needed, but is it cheating or is it just survival at this point? Before I baked them, I remembered there was additional meal prep for the week to complete, as one cannot live on chickpeas alone, so I chopped up various veggies, pickled two of them and put them in a jar, whipped up a tahini/parsley dressing, and strongly considered drinking at 2pm.
Once all the falafel were baked, and I was dehydrated from sweating in my apartment, I roasted my chickpea snacks as I still hadn’t eaten anything that day, and cleaned the kitchen as they baked. I looked into the hellpit of the can, assessed my own exhaustion, and decided to decant the remaining chickpeas into a jar so that I could get the giant can out of my sight and into the recycling. I resolved to bake the cake later that evening once I’d regained my strength.
Sitting on the couch, eating my roasty chickpeas, and watching the new season of Medici The Magnificent, I admitted to myself that the chickpeas had won. I was too tired from a day of preparation, cooking, cleaning, and troubleshooting, and the cake would have to wait. I put the unused chickpeas in the freezer without even Googling to see if that was a viable option, and I collapsed. Every dish in my possession had been used, every ounce of effort exerted toward my goal. But in the end, I learned that when it’s me versus six pounds of chickpeas, the legumes win.
I took more from this experience than lunch for the week. There were a variety of lessons taken from fighting an oversized grocery and having your ass handed to you on a bed of arugula. First, know your limits. Know how much cooking is feasible for you within a day. Factor in how much cleaning is involved. Incorporate easily freezable options into your plan of attack. If something scares you, you don’t have to open it. And always, always review your order before checkout.