Wednesday, September 12, 2012

green bean runners

When I was Olivia's age, my parents had a plantation big vegetable garden where I slaved  helped for hours on end  on occasion.  One summer evening, having planned to meet my friends in the neighborhood, my father stopped me as I skipped out the door, chomping a wad of grape bubble yum.

"Where do you think you're going?" he accused, adding, "We have beans to pick." 


Chained to the garden fence like a wild dog, I snapped those beans from their plants and threw them into the colander as if I were spitting them. 

Pick beans?  In the middle of my summer?  What kind of crazy parent...stupidest thing I ever heard...cannot believe...It's not my garden...I shouldn't have to...why can't you pick your own beans!

"What kind of crazy parent?"  Huh.  Let me think about that. 

A new neighborhood friend of Olivia's came over the other day and said, "How come whenever I'm here you have piles of tomatoes or beans or..."

Olivia interrupted and answered for me: "Because she's a crazy hippie. C'mon."

She dragged him out of the room.  I just smiled.  She had not picked the beans, but she had helped me snap all the ends off, right in the middle of her summer.  The least I could do was to let her save face and make her escape.

This time of year, when the August sunshine has faded out of the tomatoes, leaving nothing but mealy imposters on the vine, the canner runs regularly, bottling summer like its love potion for our winter pleasure.  Jars of salsa, sauce, whole tomatoes,

tomatoes that still taste like August sunshine



and various jams now populate my pantry shelves. And there's more to come.

Despite my commitment to eat local produce through the winter, the idea of canning usually overwhelmes me.  I don't have time!  So instead of planning ahead, I trick myself into it by going to the market and simply buying a lot of something. Then I get it home, set it on the counter (if it will fit) and say, "Holy sh^*! What am I going to do now?"

Once I've spent the money on the produce, I always find a way to make the canning happen.

Last Wednesday when I went to market, they had beans. Pretty ones.

Me: "Ooh, these look good!"

Olivia: "Mom. Don't."

Me: "You're the one who loves green beans in winter. Right!?"

Olivia: "I guess."  Eyeroll.  "I'm going to go get a honey stick."

Me to farmer: "Do you have a bushel of these?"

So, last week, there I was in the middle (or the end, really) of my summer, wooping it up on a CRRRRAZY Friday night...canning beans...with Steve. 

Was he surprised?  Didn't he listen when I said my vows?  "I, take you Stephen, to be my food storage partner, to wash and to blanch, in summer or in fall, for tomatoes or for beans, with peaches or with pears, to can and to freeze, from this day forward until death do us part."

The real beauty of it is that somehow I have convinced him that this is fun.

We enjoy this revelry on our carport, where we run our canner on a camp stove (we can't put the canner on our cooktop inside).  On Friday, we kept vigil until after midnight, ensuring that the pressure didn't drop as we processed two batches of beans. 

Sitting out there in the middle of the night with our beers, I told Steve I felt like a moonshine runner.  We had cover of darkness; we had bluegrass music; we had vast quantities of mason jars; we had a big boiling vat of something. 

We giggled at the idea of loading our trunk with illicit beans then heading out to make clandestine deliveries to fellow locavores.  Instead of intoxicating our customers, we'd inflatulate them (or is that a different kind of bean?--and yes, I made that word up).

Would Al Capone come after us for infringing on his territory?

our new car

No.  But Monsanto might.  Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotechnology company that manufactures corn and soybean seeds that have been genetically modified with the herbicide glyphosate.  Plants grown from Monsanto seeds resist weeds because, well, they essentially have Roundup inside of them.  Great if you're into eating herbicides, but what if you're not? 

In recent years, Monsanto has waged a systematic and successful legal campaign against family farmers, suing them for patent infringement.  If an organic farmer lives next to a farmer using Monsanto seeds, the crops inevitably cross pollinate.  Monsanto ironically argues that after their seeds have contaminated the seeds of the organic farmer next door, the farmer must in turn pay Monsanto for the seeds they cultivate from the contaminated crop.

Suddenly, I'm sipping my beer feeling like locavores and bootleggers actually have something in common:  they both have their respective antiestablishment philosophies.  Bootleggers opposed the intrusion of government into their drinking habits.  Locavores oppose the intrusion of industrial agriculture into their eating habits. 

Will there come a day when all seeds are Monsanto seeds?  When all farmers have been bullied into using them?  Steve and I just might end up running beans.  We'll need trench coats, contraband camp stoves and trunks full of vegetable-laden mason jars.  My god.  Will we need guns?

I don't know if you could say I'm "sipping" my beer anymore.

Who knew when I picked those beautiful organic beans with such venom all those years ago, that I'd grow up to to put a whole new face on the idea of  "crazy parent." 

If you want to know more about Monsanto, you might read this book that I haven't gotten to yet. Also, there's a segment on the company in the excellent documentary Food, Inc.


  1. omg. laughed my head off all over this post! and then the image of sneaking to meet you to get some inflatulating beans in the dark of night...hahaha. i so want to learn to can some food like you guys do!

    this post needs to get shared out there on huffingtonpost or somewhere!

    1. hey meredith, thanks! i'll meet you any time you want (in an italian restaurant) with some inflatulating beans. (sorry, couldn't resist the billy joel ref.)i'll just have to be sure to make my escape before they take effect! :) thanks for reading and commenting so faithfully!

  2. So so funny!! I'm right there with poor husband had no choice but to fire up the outside mega burner for the 60+ pounds of tomatoes that had overrun my counter tops and filled all and every pot in my house. Being the clutter freak that he is, he combined all pots into one big 45 qt and along with a cigar and a glass of bourbon, sat outside and patiently stirred my tomato sauce.... our end product was 14 quarts of homemade tomato sauce! I may get a little out of control at the farmers market but it's worth it.

    1. i am so jealous of your 45 qt pot. who even knew you could buy such a thing? can you take a bath in it? imagine how many beans we could put in that thing? you should keep it under lock and chain. Some renegade locavore is sure to come in the dark of night and take it off your hands!

    2. and the bootlegging wars begin. :)