BEANS. I love beans, particularly the little french filet variety (yes those ones that are reaaaalllly a back-breaker to pick). Their tinder snap and crisp flavor screams summer and always gives me a pleasant wave of nostalgia. So, in honor of the green bean, the blog this week is a throw back to a few years ago. Below is a little reflection piece I wrote about green beans.
Setting: San Francisco post- community garden bean harvest. Background: At this time I was working as Communications Director for Reading Partners (awesome nonprofit by the way). My only respite from constant human interaction, big office buildings and city streets was my time at the community garden. Outcome: A few years later, with green beans on my mind, I moved back to Virginia to start this farming venture. Needless to say, tonight when I rediscovered this little piece I wrote (in honor of my mother and our shared love of green beans) it made me laugh. It's amazing how far I've come and perhaps even more amazing that my feelings about green beans are largely unchanged. So, I thought it was worth sharing. Enjoy :)
Green Beans - 9/17/2013
Mondays are only worse than other days when I let them have their say. Today started off typically -- spiraling down the toilet bowl of a weekend past. But, I climbed out. I recovered perspective slowly and steadily throughout the day. Like the little engine that could, I made it to the top of the hill and enjoyed the view. It certainly helped that the sun was bright. There is no question that the sun has everything to do with my mood. Nothing like the simple pleasure of warm sunshine on my shoulders to roll everything else in to the distance.
My mind and energy tonight is filled with green beans. I love green beans. I love them not only because a tender haricot vert will snap with perfect crispness and flood the mouth with the taste of summer; but because toiling over their growth, harvest, and canning are sweet punctuation marks in the story of my life.
We used to have this little aluminum seeder [side note from the present - while I didn't realize it then, I was describing an Earthway Seeder which I still use and love today!]. It has red rubber handles, wide metal wheels, and a little red canister where the seeds are picked up and fed into the earth. There are sets of seed wheels fit for the canister and made for every variety of bean or pea. The little metal chain looped below the canister helps space the seeds properly in the row; it jingles lightly as you walk. The seeds bounce in the canister popping like lotto balls waiting to be caught in their pocket. I love pushing the seeder up and down carefully marked rows; bare, calloused feet walking back afterward to fold gentle mounds of tilled earth over the little white bean seeds.
Sweat always pools right in the creases of my knees. July in Virginia is hot. Beans love it -- I love it. Thick rows of plants grow heavy with bushels of young beans, it's scorching. The dirt is hot on my feet and I get a strip of sunburn where my shirt doesn't quite hit my shorts. After an hour I get the urge to squat and relieve my back. I always bend without thinking. Every time, without fail, I smash a sweat bee's stinging tail into the tender flesh of my knee pit. Damn it. Every time...
I am a salt fiend. Maybe because I learned early that dousing my french fries in salt would keep my mother/brother's greedy fingers at bay, or maybe I just have a natural salt deficiency that makes me more like the horse licking it's mineral salt block than the average person. Either way, I love salt. Ergo, I also love pickles. In particular, I LOVE dilly beans. Dilly beans are a southern delicacy -- dill-pickled beans. I don't just like them, I am a little bit obsessed with them. I have single-handedly consumed at least 6 pints of these vinegar-salt beans every year for the last 22 years. That's... 62.4 liters.. or 16 1/2 gallons of pickles. It is also my intention to continue this rate of consumption until I die a very happy salt-shriveled old lady. So, I figure I need to learn how to master this art on my own.
Canning is one of those rare cooking activities that I really enjoy. It's simple, productive, and it lasts. Unlike nightly meals that are quickly eaten and even more laboriously cleaned up, a can of good tomatoes will be there in the winter to make a fabulous pasta sauce. Plum jam will make your biscuits awesome every weekend for months. And well, of course, dilly beans are always on hand for a delicious snack at any time of the day or night. No cooking, cleaning, or preparation needed. Plus, more to the point, this is something I've always done with my mother. We always make dilly beans together. It's a ritual, a comfort, a small and easy pleasure. 2 1/2 cups of vinegar, 2 1/2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of salt, 4 heads of dill, 4 cloves of garlic, mustard seed, celery seed, cayenne pepper, 4 pint-sized sterilized jars, and 2-3 pounds of perfectly plucked baby green beans.