Thursday, November 18, 2010


One of my very favorite childhood memories is of Aunt Lou's store---the flappy-screen door with the faded Nehi sign, mistily visible after the thousands of hands opening and slamming to the tinkle of the tiny bell above. The foot-faded old green linoleum, the big shining glass cases of candy
and notions:

and everything from #1.25 eyeglasses to single, unwrapped nipples with little side-flaps to fit onto a Coke bottle for those babies whose families' sparse income was doled out for flour and lard and beans.
And the BEANS---OH, how I LOVED the beans. All the cases were to your right as you entered the door, forming a second, enticing wall in front of the ceiling-high shelves of other goods, with just enough of a passageway for Aunt Lu or Uncle Jake to wedge their spare forms behind, reaching high with what I still think of as the "grabber" to bring down a can of this, a box of that.
But in FRONT of the cases were the bolted-on half-barrels of beans. That row of about six immense tubs hung at a kid's temptation level, filled with the several kinds of dried beans and peas which made up such a staple of the local diet. Each big wooden tub was white-painted, and held a huge silvery scoop for filling bags and pokes of the beans---from pintos to Northerns to navies to reds to black-eyes.

And each scoop, two-hands-heavy, held all the allure of a new train set or a baby doll with that enchanting, suck-your-lungs-full, new-doll smell, like not being able to chew that first taste of Fleer's s-l-o-w-l-y, for the avid mouth-running gulps of the sweetness were irrestible.

The days before Legos were ripe for small things to stir and run your fingers through, and nobody ever seemed to mind that every kid in town had probably touched their dinner at one time or another. It was so lovely to reach FARfar into the cool depths of the bean-tubs, digging for treasure, hoping for reward---the entire reward being the DOING of the thing. We entertained ourselves endlessly, blocking passage of the customers entering and leaving, hampering commerce, I'm sure, for the aisles of that place were cramped even to a child, with the great heaps and variety of the merchandise.
Just pouring out scoop after scoop, hearing the little glisssss of the falling beans, like water upon rocks, was a wonderful thing. And the colors and shapes were so hypnotic, as the cascade descended time after time, to be enveloped back into the whole the way fudge leaves the spoon when it's almost done. Perhaps the entire allowing of the thing hinged on the fact that we DID adhere to the one unbreakable Rule, heard on every entering of the store. We expected it like Pavlov's dogs, immediately after the jingling of the bell: Uncle Jake's DEEP, stern voice, in its everyday sepulchral tones would rumble up from somewhere to the side or front of the store, admonishing for the thousandth time: DON'T MIX THE BEANS. And we never did.
We'd eaten quite a few of all kinds, already as children---they were an absolute staple in that part of the South, and though we had lots of fresh peas and beans from our own gardens, even in Summer the bowls of Pintos, filled with the good pink hunks of ham, or Northerns, with a little hand of fatback, or navies, with a bit of bell pepper and a lot of onion cooked in, were on every table. And in Winter---almost every house had the scent of long-cooking beans on the stove, especially on Washday---Monday---much like the Red-Beans-And-Rice traditions of New Orleans.

And we like them still. They are our Christmas Eve Supper, from I can't remember when---many years now, a simple, humble supper with cornbread and slaw, for they are such a contrast to all the traditional dressing and turkey and sides the next day.We just had a good pot the other night, made with the last of the Halloween Hambone. I hadn't even thought of it when I was uploading the pictures, but I was having a little bowl of leftover beans, with a good shake of L&P and even heartier shake of Louisiana Hot Sauce. Nice lunch on a cool day, with lots to do.

Directions for cooking on Lawn Tea. Hope you enjoy some soon!