If it wasn’t for the delicious taste of fresh green beans from the garden, I’d have given them up years ago. Between near child-labor conditions of my youth, and the mood swings of my sweaty mother in the kitchen while canning the beans, it’s a wonder I can look at green beans, let alone eat them.
Our garden sat down at the bottom of a hilly backyard, quite a distance from our mobile home and very close to a dense patch of woods in which there was a stream that would rise and make every piece of ground a bit soggy. I really did not mind the physical act of picking beans, but I was afraid of snakes. I don’t know if I saw one near the garden or what, but I was terrified. I remember just sobbing, squatting in the muck, and picking beans.
My father was not one suffer those tears—he thought I just wanted to get out of doing the work. The worst thing the man could have was a “lazy,” day-dreaming, ballerina of a child. We had a lot to work out, my dad and me, over the years. But back then, I picked the beans, and in reality it probably was not that many beans and it was probably only 15 minutes away from my favorite Trixie Beldon book. But it felt like forever.
So, it is with this mixture of memories and attachments that I approach green beans every year. I’m not afraid of snakes anymore, but I am afraid of backaches and just thought of canning in the summer heat the way my Mom and Dad did makes me anxious.
My mom would pull back her unruly red hair, sweat would form in pools on her head, and I could not begin to count the cigarettes she smoked, the Pepsi’s she drank, or the cuss words that came spilling out of her mouth. The kitchen, then, was nothing more than a hall way and we did not have air conditioning. It was stifling. I don’t know how she and Dad put up all the tomatoes and beans they did, but I am sure it helped get us—quite deliciously—through the winter.
Now I often read about the joys of discovering canning and getting back to “simple” living in magazines and on web sites. Who are these people and where have they been? Some city folks, I understand are buying produce just to can. Well, good for them. As for me, I have no romantic notions about canning—especially green beans. I blanch and freeze my beans, so does my Mom.
Passing on my love of green beans to my girls, though, has turned out to be trickier than I thought.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Green Bean Meditation. In the mean time, I wonder: do you have green bean memories?