Thursday, June 28, 2012

Green Beans, Grandmas, and Air Conditioning

Gerry McCartney ~ Head Gardener
July 2009

Last night we finished up the last of last year's bean crop, cultivated and harvested by Gerry; photographed and frozen by me. For reconstituting, I followed my brother Dave's recipe for our Grandma Carriker's green beans and onions. You can find this delicious, old - fashioned recipe on my sister Peg's cooking blog.

Around this same time last year we had a similar end of / beginning of (you pick!) season bean feast, after which I added the above picture to my facebook photo album. The ensuing comments yielded an instant, nearly fully formed blog post about the joy of garden beans and tomatoes, the sheroism of grandmothers, and the blessing / curse (you pick!) of air - conditioning.

My friend Paula: Sounds yummy! Garden beans are the best. Mmmm.

My cousin Maggie: Grandma's cooking yummmmmmm!

My friend Herman: Amazing what my mother did . . . no grandmothers to help; one died when I was a youngster; the other was paralyzed in a sitting position . . . she was a sweetheart but depended on others for total care . . . she died when I was 14 . . . I have strong memories of her; less strong memories of the other grandmother.

My cousin Dodie: I remember August as tomato month---Grandma and Mom would spend days in the heat processing tomatoes -- whole and juice. Blanching, peeling, sterilizing jars, hot water baths, etc. All without running water, let alone a dishwasher!!! Missouri is miserable in August -- so humid. All of us kids were outside in the fresh air, while they slaved away in the kitchen with big pots boiling on the stove.

My cousin Alicia: We have gotten spoiled by air conditioning. I personally hate it and don't think it does us good but, alas, I have others in the house to contend with. Haven't had ours on yet -- hope to hold off as long as possible! Give me a good fan and I'm set . . . Sometimes I feel I'm the only one!

My sister Peg: I've decided I don't hate a/c, but instead hate that we need it. I wish I could go all summer without a/c but I know I would be miserable without it.

My friend Katy recalled waking up early on a summer morning to the aroma of new green beans simmering in bacon grease and the anticipation of knowing what would be for supper that night! We were reminiscing about the special jars, or bowls, or coffee cans full of saved bacon grease that all the moms and grandmoms kept on the stove top for making recipes such as these.

My friend Mitzi added: Summer mornings at my grandma's were spent sitting under her big walnut tree while we "snapped" green beans. She kept her bacon grease in an old coffee can near the stove. To this day, one of my favorite meals is homegrown snap beans simmered with bacon and new potatoes.

My Grandma Lindsey kept her bacon grease in a
Jewel Tea ~ Sugar Bowl

In a midwestern twist on Proust's madeleine, those savory green beans or warm fresh tomatoes carry the essence of the past, evoking the summers of childhood, the hot kitchen, the pressure cookers, the grandmothers, the screen doors, the whirring fans, the cool front porch, the rocking chairs:

"No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. . . . And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine . . . my aunt LĂ©onie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it.
And all from my cup of tea."
~ Marcel Proust
In Search of Lost Time or The Remembrance of Things Past

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