Kathryn Hamrick

Not exactly how they work up green beans at the factory .  .  .


            People normally defend the insanity known as gardening by saying, “Well, the vegetables you grow yourself taste better than the vegetables you buy in the store.”  Besides being a lot of hogwash, that’s vanity.  But it takes a lot of rationalizing to be a vegetable gardener.

            Having just come off of a three-day green-bean-canning binge, I myself have been bad-mouthing store-bought beans lately.  My beans not only taste better, they also have a story to tell.

            My bean saga began on Saturday. Before high noon, the high hour of television wrestling, I rounded up the usual suspects and we went to the bean patch.  I told the four boys that this was a BYOB affair ─ bring your own bucket.  Baby Miles took the dogs’ bucket ─ and the dogs ─ with him.

            Miles, who at 3 is growing into a helpful stage, had a real brainstorm out in the garden.  First, he weeded the Johnson grass of its mild corn problem.  Next, he went after the green beans.  Figuring we were through with them, Miles followed behind us, pulling up the bean plants as soon as we picked them.  I hated to correct him for fear I’d turn him into a farmer.

            Four rows and five containers later, we were through the first step.  While I prepared for the second step, breaking and stringing, I gave the boys 30 minutes off.

            A lot can happen in 30 minutes ─ especially if you have a Slip ‘N Slide.  The name, Slip ‘N Slide, says it all, except that it will pump your well dry fast.

            Since it is nigh to impossible to can 25 quarts of beans without water, we hoped for a knight in shining armor ─ in my case, a farmer in a rust-green Chevrolet truck ─ to come by to prime the pump.

            While waiting for the farmer to mosey on home, I invited the boys to our next BYOB affair ─ bring your own bowl.  The four boys, with three bowls apiece, went into the living room to break beans.  Preferring quiet, I broke beans alone in the kitchen until my conscience started bothering me, urging me to join the boys and to turn this into a happy family affair.  Alas, we are not the Waltons.

            We need to do more things together; however, beans is not one of them.  I should not have been surprised when the boys, influenced by our sports-oriented culture, turned bean-breaking into a sports extravaganza.

            Here’s a rundown on what else you can do with green beans: (1) You can open your mouth and dare your brother to throw a bean into it; (2) you can have a “Whose Bean Can Pop the Loudest?” contest; (3) you can dump two grocery bags of beans onto the living room floor and have a scavenger hunt for fat beans, baby beans, and fat bean bugs;  and (4) you can have a bull look-alike contest in which each boy selects two long curved beans, hooks a bean in each ear, and snorts like bull.

            I proposed the Quiet Game, but I promptly lost.  Who can keep a poker face when your Quiet Game opponents are staring at you with beans in their ears?

            In three days, the bean ordeal was over.  These home-canned beans may not taste better than those that Libby’s is putting up. What our beans have, though, is something money can’t buy: character.  But would you want to eat them? 

            When we entertain this winter, we’ll probably have to make it BYOB: Bring your own beans

  June 27, 1985