August 13, 2010

Snappin' Beans

I'm a little behind on my blogging. This article was published in the Warrick Courier on Friday, August 6, 2010.

Having completed our Saturday errands in early morning, my spouse and I are in hibernation from all this heat. We are snapping fresh green beans together in our air-conditioned kitchen, remembering snapping, shelling, and shucking of our youth.

Of all the bounty of an Indiana garden, both of us remember that green beans grew plentifully and filled unending bushel baskets. (Don’t get me started on zucchini – that’s another essay.)

My in-laws kept a huge garden at their small farm in central Indiana, where my mother-in-law reigned supreme over growth and production like the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation.

My mother-in-law, God rests her soul, passed from this earth earlier this year. Only five feet tall, she was a little giant, tough as nails. And she loved her garden.

Family legend holds that on the morning of my husband’s birth, she picked strawberries out in the field adjacent to their house. The midwife arrived and she went inside and gave birth to nine pound, tow-headed baby boy.

For most of our married life, my husband has dissed green beans. It is not that he dislikes green beans, but he does not want them prepared with ham or bacon or the stuffing cooked out of them. He prefers his veggies more al dente, not the green mush of a bean boiled until soft. I like the taste of bacon added to the beans. We don’t use bacon for cooking much anymore.

There is also the memory of those bushel baskets, just waiting for adolescent hands to snap them, when playing tag, or riding bicycles, or reading seemed preferable.

My grandparents had a Summer Kitchen, a relic from the days before electricity. Many seasonal, garden-related chores took place in this wooden structure, adjacent to the house. My grandmother was also an expert at killing chickens, an activity I won’t detail in this G-rated essay. The Summer Kitchen was the place to clean chickens as well.

My grandfather tore the Summer Kitchen down in the mid 1960s as by now they had an “REMC dream kitchen” with pink-tile and modern appliances. As my grandparents aged, the garden got smaller and my grandmother canned less.

Canning is an art I never learned – but I am a champion bean-snapper. Our feast this evening of red potatoes and green beans was snapped to perfection by two bean-snappin’ professionals.