Baked Beans…Where the (rhymes with) Heart Is
I believe in baked beans because they conjure up home and humor—two mainstays in my life.
My earliest memories involve my mom’s secret recipe and the champagne bubbles on “The Lawrence Welk Show.” My family and I experienced mom’s beans and the bubbles every Saturday night in my Boston suburban home as I was growing up. The aroma of the beans cooking throughout the day was enough to make my mouth water. The odor produced after dinner unfortunately made my eyes do the same thing.
My family’s baked-bean behavior made me feel special and with good reason. We were the only people I knew who got “Beano” in our stockings at Christmas. Holiday gatherings always ended in discussions about legumes and reenactments of their not-so-subtle aftereffects. Then there was the actual Saturday night ritual itself.
After dinner, the men of the family would disappear to the bowels of the basement to play pool while having, well, let’s just call it “bubble-music” contests. We women stayed upstairs—partly out of fear—and did female things, like hunt down cans of Lysol, open windows, and hang pine tree air fresheners from the potted plants, all the while never discussing WHY we were taking such preventive measures since “girls don’t talk about things like that.” Nor, apparently, did we DO things like that, which left me feeling mighty uncomfortable for the first 18 years of my life. Even so, whenever we heard hoots and hollers from downstairs, we women knew what was going on: King Fartsalot had been crowned.
Keep in mind that eating baked beans was more than just tradition in my family. It was an entrance exam for acceptance into our tribe. Offspring who turned up their noses at the meal aroused suspicion. Lovers or friends who refused to eat our favorite Saturday night dish didn’t last long. Once accepted, though, it was like belonging to a prestigious club. Membership was a privilege and lifelong. There was only one rule: you could make jokes about what happened after eating our favorite musical fruit, but you could never, ever complain.
And why would you? Heck, my relatives have the healthiest colons in town, which gives me even more reason to believe. So get your family together, turn on Lawrence Welk, and pass the beans.
Just leave the windows open.
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