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En Passant: ‘Wherever you be, let the air go free’

I DUNNO, I think she’s in denial; I think she does not want to admit the ugly truth, and I’m not talking about whatshername, Doris… hold on, not Doris, you know, ag man, Pansy Tlakula, the now ex-Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) who finally resigned with about as much mud sticking to her …

I DUNNO, I think she’s in denial; I think she does not want to admit the ugly truth, and I’m not talking about whatshername, Doris… hold on, not Doris, you know, ag man, Pansy Tlakula, the now ex-Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) who finally resigned with about as much mud sticking to her as you’ll find at the bottom of the Paddadam. Anyway, not her. Let me explain.

This winter just gone, or which we assume has gone, although winter sometimes suddenly comes back in September to bite us on the butt, but let’s assume for now that it’s basically over, this past winter I did what I had threatened to do during previous winters and made bean soup. Twice. I was inspired some years ago now by the bean soup of the late Sannie Lombard, Oma Moek, of Piet Retief, who made a rib-sticking bean soup of note.

Now beans have a reputation, a good one if you’re a vark or at junior school, and a bad one if you’ve just started dating a girl, or are about to be sworn in as President or are standing in a crowded lift. ‘Cos beans, you see, beans make you flatulent… ag, man, lets call a spade a shovel, beans make you fart.

Now Doris, my Doris, denies this. Doris says that it is just a myth that beans give you wind. I think she believes that the wind is psychogenically (is that the right word?) produced by the power of suggestion. We are told often enough that beans give you the farts, and so, by Jove, we eat beans and then fart like racehorses.

In actual fact there is a very good scientific reason why beans have this effect on us. I tell you what: you learn something every day and today I learned that some beans, presumably those that make you fart, contain a type of sugar that you’d not normally find on the supermarket shelves, called oligsaccharides. If you find them in supermarkets then presumably someone somewhere has let rip with a silent but deadly poep.

Now, as I understand it, and I don’t, in the case of fart-sponsoring beans these olig-wossnames are especially the sugars raffinose and stachyose (as opposed to glucose, who-knows, pantyhose etc) and here’s a thing, these are the same sugar molecules found in… wait for it… what else makes you windy…? yeah, cabbage! You see, you learn something every day.

So anyway, lurking in your gut, whether you like it or not (in fact you have a symbiotic mutually dependent and beneficial relationship with them) are a whole bunch of enzymes, but not one that can properly digest these particular sugar molecules. Glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose, gardenhose are all fine, all sorted out, but raffinose and stachyose (even snottynose) are much longer molecules (especially snottynose), and so they are usually sorted out by bacteria in the large intestine. I kid you not – this is science, my friend, science.

Thing is, see, this process in the large intestine, of bacteria attacking these sugars, produces various gases, some of them noticeably hideous. Industrial chemists would call these gases by-products, capture them, pack them under pressure in canisters and sell them to riot squads. If you try to do that you’ll be called weird, possibly perverted.

And, in the normal course of events, where do these gases go? Well, they are emitted as flatulence down your trouser leg, or I suppose it depends what you’re wearing or not wearing. But they can penetrate duvets and blankets and I have seen them knock mosquitoes off walls.

Apparently, and again I kid you not, in the good ol’ US of A if you’re going to eat beans you can buy a product called “Beano”, which contains an anti-oligosaccharide enzyme to help aid digestion. You can add it to your bean dish or take it, I dunno, like a vitamin pill. Where’s the fun in that, I ask?

Quite often too, people soak beans overnight, and since these sugars, like the sugar in your tea, are soluble, if you throw the soaking water away you should reduce the chances of getting the winds, so that’s a good idea.

But in making my bean soup this past winter, I inadvertently stumbled upon a natural remedy for this side effect of bean eating. I suppose you could call it a prophylactic since it prevents a condition from arising. There are acknowledged natural carminatives, a carminative being something that relieves the farterasies, and one of them is coriander. Yep, to my bean soup I added powdered coriander for no other reason than I thought it would add to the taste (and it certainly did), and unknowingly prevented us getting the poeperasies. Apparently, anise and cumin have similar properties.

So there you have it. Biology lesson over. As I say, you can learn something every day.

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