Batbean is a blog where vegetables are depicted as superheroes because they are. Vegetables promote health, reduce the risk of many diseases, and absorb carbon dioxide. That vegetables can produce food and provide oxygen for billions of people using sun, water, air, soil, soil nutrients, soil animals (like the worm), and insects (like the bee) is simply amazing. This blog posts articles, essays, opinions, and stories about food, gardening, recipes, travel, ideas on living green, or anything about vegetables. And it starts with a series of children’s stories about Batbean.
Below is the first book in the Batbean series. I hope you like this story.
The Origin of Batbean
Where vegetables are superheroes
Written by Steven Coffee Chin
Illustrated by Ursula Andrejczuk
Since the beginning of time, the small town of Teanan had been isolated from much of the rest of the world. Teanan lies in a valley along a river in the tropical region of Sanya, a country in the Eastern Hemisphere. While it is surrounded by nearby hills, it is flat and perfect for farming.
The people of Teanan live simply. Many work as fruit, vegetable, chicken, pig, goat, or cattle farmers. Others work as fishermen, teachers, cooks, bakers, seamstresses, blacksmiths, handymen, plumbers, builders, doctors, nurses, police officers, or firefighters.
The Teananese have an almost magical bond with the land. Every plant and animal is given a name. The farm animals, fruits and vegetables provide food and health for its people. In return, the Teananese care for the land and all that lives on it. This virtuous cycle creates invisible threads tying all life together.
Of all the vegetables, one is considered the most special, a hard to pronounce vegetable called the psophocarpus tetragonolobus, a.k.a. the winged bean. The winged bean is an amazing bean that can provide more nutrients than any vegetable in the world. Every part of the plant can be eaten, including the flowers, leaves, stems, pods, and roots. The entire plant provides proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a whole lot more. Some call it a superbean.
On one ominous winter day, every Teananese received a curt letter that the King of Sanya had sold Teanan and that each person must move out. This news broke everyone’s heart.
Apparently the King had unwisely spent more money than he had and needed to sell Teanan to repay some of his royal debts. The King felt terrible about the situation and tried to lessen the people’s hardships. He gave them time to move and new land—land that no one really wanted. He gave them until the first week of spring and designated a large area of uninhabited jungle about one hundred miles east for them to build a new town.
Mega Corp., a large international food conglomerate, had eyed Teanan’s fertile land. Mega Corp. knew about the King’s problems and offered him enough riches to pay his debts in exchange for Teanan. The King gladly accepted.
Mega Corp. planned to bulldoze the entire town and turn it into a large farm factory for producing cheap foods, including low grade beef, chicken, pork, and fish.
A long time ago, Mega Corp. had built large cattle factories in the more modernized parts of the world. Unfortunately, its cattle factories produced mad cows that ran wild and terrorized all those around them. Because of the mad cows, many countries passed laws requiring the humane treatment of cattle.
Despite those earlier problems, Mega Corp. never learned. Instead, it covered up its problems and shipped them offshore to less populated regions of the world like Teanan. Teanan was perfect because the land was fertile and isolated from the rest of the world.
The Teananese had no choice but to pack and move east before the bulldozers arrived. The livestock farmers brought at least two of each animal on their long journey. The fruit and vegetable farmers brought samples and seeds of each plant. The teachers brought books. Others brought tools. All in all, everyone carried as much as they could to rebuild their lives in the vast and unknown jungle. As each person made their journey east, the invisible threads connecting the Teananese to Teanan started to break.
When spring came and after all the Teananese had left, much still remained in Teanan. The sun rose to reveal emptied houses, abandoned farm animals, and large swathes of unkempt farmland.
Mega Corp. does not like to waste time, and at the end of the first week of spring, an army of bulldozers arrived in Teanan at the break of dawn.
The bulldozers scattered the remaining farm animals and flattened all the trees, bushes, and vegetable patches. As animals fled or as plants were destroyed, the invisible threads broke, tearing up the fabric that tied life together in Teanan.
But all was not lost. As the connecting threads of life were broken, breaths of life would enter those plants that survived. When enough breaths of life filled the remaining plants, they grew in size and awoke to see the devastation in their town.
Some of the winged beans woke up and fluttered into action. The elder winged beans knew that they were permanently rooted to the ground and could not save themselves. So they grabbed their children, still winged buds at that time, and tossed them on the backs of fleeing farm animals.
One in particular, Dou, landed safely on the collar of a shaggy old mountain goat and escaped the reach of the bulldozers. Dou was still young and small then. While he could not understand everything that was happening, he felt deep sadness. He felt very much alone.
The old shaggy goat was named Baarum. Baarum instinctively fled to a rocky top as most goats do when they sense danger. This worked because the bulldozers could not climb hills, especially the rocky ones. When Baarum safely reached the top of one of the taller mountainsides outside of Teanan, he rested and so did Dou.
While they were resting, new invisible threads formed to connect them. After they were full from sleep, they woke up to find each other.
“Have you been hiding in my coat all this time?” asked Baarum.
Surprised that he could understand, Dou replied, “Who are you? And where am I? Where’s my family?”
“I am Baarum, an old goat from Teanan. We are up in the mountains after running away from those machines that destroyed our town. Not much is left I’m afraid.”
“I want to go back home,” cried Dou.
“You can’t. You will be destroyed like everything else. We are lucky to have escaped. You have to be strong and move on,” commanded Baarum.
“I don’t know how to be strong. I don’t know what to do.”
“Do you see the highest mountain to the northwest? It is called Mount Jiubei. According to an old goat’s tale, a wise man lives there. Supposedly, he has counseled many lost goats. He will know what we should do. Because I am a mountain goat, it will be easy for me to take us there. While it is still chilly early in the morning, we will take the longer path around the mountains. During the day when it is warmer, we will take the direct route over the mountains to Mount Jiubei.”
As the companions travelled northwest, Dou grew in size and learned from Baarum about the winged beans, life in Teanan, and the world around them. Baarum had seen a lot throughout his long life and told Dou many stories. For a brief moment Dou felt safe and connected. He enjoyed listening to Baarum’s stories about Teanan. More importantly, he secretly hoped to restore Teanan as described in Baarum’s stories.
After a week’s journey, Baarum and Dou finally reached the base of Mount Jiubei. Baarum knew that it would take most of daylight to reach the top so they camped out overnight, ready to start their hike at sunrise.
Excited to meet the wise man of Mount Jiubei, Dou could not really sleep. He kept quiet because he knew that Baarum needed rest and energy for tomorrow’s long climb. But as soon as the tip of the sun appeared above the horizon, Dou woke Baarum.
“It’s time. It’s time for us to go see the wise man of Mount Jiubei!” exclaimed Dou.
“Alright, alright. I’m up,” grumbled Baarum. Soon they packed and headed up.
As they approached the top of Mount Jiubei, they saw a bald, aged man sitting on the porch of an old, rustic house.
“Welcome strangers. My name is Guangyou. You must be tired from your long journey from Teanan. Come inside. I will prepare some tea for you.”
“I am Dou, and this is Baarum. We are happy to meet you and happier to have some warm tea. How do you know we are from Teanan?” asked Dou.
As the three walked inside, Guangyou explained: “From this mountaintop, I can see everything. I saw what Mega Corp. did to your town. It has destroyed many towns in its quest to build large empires of cheap food factories. How I wish I could stop Mega Corp. But I cannot leave this mountain. I draw my strength and wisdom here, where I can observe human folly. If I leave, I will become an ordinary old man. But you, little winged bean, are very special. You come from a long line of supervegetables. Did you know that you have more proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants combined than any other vegetable? Winged beans are amazing. You in particular are even more special than your ancestors. During your long journey here, you connected with Baarum and acquired the traits of a mountain goat: agility, strength, ruggedness, and, for better or worse, a little bit of stubbornness.”
What Guangyou said really excited Dou. “Do you think that with these special abilities, I can grow up one day to defeat Mega Corp. and return the Teananese to their home?”
“You may be able to do much more. You can be the world’s first antioxidant superhero. With all your special abilities, not only will you battle Mega Corp. and its likes, you can also fight against malnutrition, obesity, junk foods, and carcinogens. It will be a long and hard fight. But if you have the will and the gumption, I believe you can accomplish all these things,” exclaimed Guangyou.
“What is a carcinogen? It sounds scary,” asked Dou.
“Carcinogens are agents that cause uncontrolled growth in people’s bodies and are linked to cancer. And yes, in fact, they are very scary.”
“Is Mega Corp. a carcinogen?”
Guangyou smiled and nodded, “In a way, Mega Corp. is like a carcinogen. We desperately need to stop it from spreading.”
“Then let’s beat the carcinogens,” shouted Dou.
“Not so fast little one. You still have a lot to learn, my student.”
For several months, young Dou trained with Master Guangyou. Dou learned how to plant his roots in the ground to absorb nutrients for strength and to pull them up again. He learned how to spread his wings, how to glide and fly. He learned different forms of martial arts. He practiced using various vines, twigs, thorns, seed powders, and plant oils as possible weapons. He was like a ninja bean, casting ninja stars made from thorns and smoke screens made from seed powders. Some of the more powerful powders can make non-plants itch.
Most importantly, Master Guangyou taught Dou how to breathe.
“Inhale carbon dioxide, exhale oxygen. Inhale carbon dioxide, exhale oxygen,” commanded Master Guangyou.
With each deeper and longer breath, Dou achieved calmness and clarity.
When Dou was tired, he would sit on the edge of Mount Jiubei and look towards the world below. He would gain from Guangyou’s wisdom as he observed human endeavors, passions, accomplishments, and follies.
As Dou matured and gained strength from the world around him, he grew tall and strong. Soon he felt ready to take on the carcinogens of the world.
One afternoon before their normal training session, Dou asked “Is it almost time, Master Guangyou, for me to confront Mega Corp.? Do you have a plan?”
“Not so fast, my student. You cannot fight Mega Corp. alone. As you know, I cannot leave this mountain and Baarum is too old to really help you in that way. There is another plant as special as you, called the synsepalum dulcificum, a.k.a. the miracle berry. Their town, Miraculin, used to lie about twenty miles west and across the river from Teanan. Miraculin was recently destroyed by Mega Corp. One very special miracle berry is floating down the Southeast River on a pile of twigs. Her name is Mirabell. She is about eighty miles southwest from here. Can you see her?”
“Yes, Master Guangyou. But how will I get to her before she washes out to sea? It took Baarum and me almost ten days to get here over a distance of about fifty miles. From the speed of the river, she’ll be out to sea in two days!”
“Dou, you are no longer just a winged bean. After your training and development, you are a superwinged bean. First, you need a new name. You shall be called Batbean. Your first mission will be to rescue Mirabell, but you must wait until tomorrow morning when the winds blow south. From the height of this mountain and with the support of tomorrow’s southward wind, you can glide down to her in about two hours.”
Dou then visualized his flying down to the river as Master Guangyou had described.
“Young Dou, I mean, Batbean, getting to her will be the easy part. Bringing her back to the top of Mount Jiubei will be a hundred times more difficult. When you find her, tell her that I know her parents, Pabell and Mabell. Tell her about yourself and what happened to your town. Tell her that we need her help. Bring her here only if she wants to.
“On your journey back, train Mirabell as you have been trained. With some training, the two of you will travel faster. Also, you may need her help. By the time you and Mirabell reach the bottom of this mountain range, you will be tired. Baarum will meet you down there and carry you here. No one knows these mountains and can climb them as well as Baarum. Remember, your only mission is to bring Mirabell safely to the bottom of this mountain range. Baarum will take over from there.”
For the rest of the day, Batbean prepared for his mission. He collected vines, twigs, thorns, seed powders, and plant oils. He drew out different routes to get back to the base of the mountain range. Once he was satisfied with his main plan and backup plans, he fell asleep.
Early the next morning, Batbean said goodbye to Master Guangyou and his old friend Baarum. Batbean then closed his eyes and listened for the wind. When a perfect gust of wind picked up, Batbean stretched out his wings and instantly took flight. He opened his eyes and kept them on Mirabell as he glided down towards the river. He felt great because now he had a purpose. He inhaled, and he exhaled. He was calm, and his mind was clear.
Just as Master Guangyou had said, Batbean closed in on Mirabell about two hours and ninety miles later and not a moment too soon. Mirabell had just fallen over a tall waterfall. But just as she was about to crash to the bottom of the waterfall, Batbean swooped down, caught her and landed them safely on the river bank.
Before Mirabell was able to say anything, Batbean disarmingly apologized, “I am sorry. This is not the best way to meet someone, but I thought that you needed help. Hi, I am Batbean of the winged beans. Master Guangyou said that he knows your parents, Pabell and Mabell. He told me to save you from being washed out to sea and to tell you that we need your help.”
Mirabell was surprised and overwhelmed by everything that had just happened and by all the information Batbean had just blurted out. She took a deep breath and collected her thoughts.
“I have heard about the winged beans from my grandparents, but I thought they were just fairy tales. Well anyway, thank you, but you shouldn’t have. I don’t care if I were washed out to sea. You see, my town was destroyed by an army of bulldozers. I have nothing left. I don’t know how I would even begin to help you,” cried Mirabell.
“I know what you are going through. I was there myself. I know who is responsible for your situation. Do you have time to listen to my story?” responded Batbean.
“Sure. The only thing I have now is time. I am all ears.”
“Okay. I will tell you everything as we get to drier ground before nightfall.”
As they travelled north, they learned about each other, their roots and how they became plant orphans. Mirabell learned about the winged beans’ special powers, as Batbean learned about miracle berries.
Batbean learned that miracle berries can turn anything sour sweet. Before the discovery of the miracle berries, the people of Miraculin fought hard against obesity and its related ailments. After they discovered the miracle berries, they threw parties and added miracle berries to their foods without all the extra calories. Miracle berries helped the Miraculinians live fun and healthy lives.
As they learned more about each other, they sensed that they could accomplish something important together: to help people live well, eat nutritiously, and care for the world around them. But in order to get there, they would have to battle malnutrition, obesity, junk foods, and, of course, carcinogens. Little did they know now, they will also need to fight ignorance and indifference.
Mirabell said to Batbean, “I’m in. Let’s fight these guys. When do we start?”
As Master Guangyou would say to Batbean, Batbean said to Mirabell, “Not so fast little one. You have a lot to learn. Master Guangyou wants to meet you. You will love him. He will teach you everything you need to know about how to defeat Mega Corp. It is late, so let us camp out here tonight. Tomorrow morning, we will make our way to Mount Jiubei. First, you need a superhero name. My real name is Dou, but my superhero name is Batbean.”
“How about Batberry?” asked Mirabell.
“You do not have wings. How can you be a bat? Because you are a miracle berry, how about Miraclebean?”
“I am a berry and not a bean . . . . But okay, Dou, or should I say Batbean? You can call me Miraclebean. Together, we can be Batbean and Miraclebean.”
In the next book, as Batbean and Miraclebean head north, they encounter an attack by General Sat Fat, the commander-in-chief of all saturated fats and a henchman for Mega Corp. Will Batbean and Miraclebean escape General Sat Fat and his army and find their way back to Mount Jiubei? Read “Attack of General Sat Fat” to find out.