Every year, my husband and I plant zucchini and bell peppers and wait anxiously for them to ripen so that we can use them in my enchiladas. The recipe calls for refried beans which I usually buy in a can. I also tend to use canned enchilada sauce to save time since I have an 8-month-old daughter and time is at a premium these days.
But this month, I’m kicking the can—and the BPA in canned food—so making my enchiladas was going to take more planning than usual. I considered buying beans from Eden Foods, which uses BPA-free packaging for their canned beans, and enchilada sauce in a pouch but I thought it would be a fun challenge to make these items from scratch.
I began the night before by soaking black beans overnight. So far, pretty easy. I then cooked the beans on the stove and threw in some onion, salt and other spices for good measure. Piece of cake! Why did I ever buy beans from a can, I thought.
I then went to work on the enchilada sauce. I mixed my spices, made a paste as my recipe indicated and set the paste and some veggie stock on the stove to simmer and thicken. What a snap!
I was about 10 minutes into stirring the enchilada sauce and wondering about how I would do as a contestant on Top Chef when I noticed that my sauce wasn’t thickening. In fact, the paste hadn't dissolved into the stock at all! I spent 15 minutes mashing the paste and stirring trying to get it to dissolve in the liquid and thicken.
Meanwhile, the beans looked like they were finished so I drained them and mashed them in a frying pan and oil to get refried beans. But they looked dry so I tried the process over again. The second time was a little better but nowhere near as smooth as the beans from the cans.
Already I'd spent two hours in the kitchen and hadn’t even started my normal prep for the enchiladas. I chopped and sautéed the vegetables, shredded the cheese and assembled the enchiladas as fast as I could so that we could have dinner at a reasonable hour.
The result: quite good but I did notice a few things. First, I am shocked by how much salt is actually in our canned food! I added what I thought was a normal amount of salt to my beans and sauce and both were lacking in seasoning. Second, kicking the can is not something I can do every day.
The fact is, I love using canned food. It's convenient, economical and tastes good. I don’t eat much of it but whenever I buy canned food, it's because I don’t have the time or inclination to start from scratch. But I'm just not willing to expose myself and my family to unnecessary BPA for convenience or cost. After this experience, I am more convinced than ever that the market needs to change! We need cans that are safe and free of BPA.
Will I continue with this pledge? Absolutely! I may even try to make enchiladas again this month. But I know that kicking the can for the month won’t be the end of my actions. We cannot shop our way out of this problem. We need real change in the market and I plan to keep the pressure on all canned food manufacturers until they get BPA out of their products.