Reaping where I did not sow and gathering where I did not winnow. Matthew 25:24
The boards creaked before dawn at my grandparents' home. People stirred to get busy on the "place" because so much had to be done. I would watch Grandmother pull beans off the vines and load up her apron, then we would bring them in to snap and string. Her hands would fly with practiced precision while the tip of my thumb eventually became sore as the tender flesh pulled slightly away from the nail. Many times I would find strings while eating those beans and was sure that it was my fumbling fingers that left those strings behind because we all know that Grandmothers are nigh on perfect.
When the beans were all snapped she would put them on her wood stove that had been lit by Grandfather before he left to race horses out to the fields. Into the big pot would go a piece of fat back that had been salted and cured in the smoke house just outside of the kitchen. Then she left to work in the fields while the smell filled the house to such epic proportions that eventually had my mouth watering. About an hour before the noon meal she would return and we would peel and cut up potatoes to add to the pot of simmering green beans. After a while she would take off the lid and let the water boil down until there was nothing left but rich and flavorful juices. When everyone returned for supper the beans were ready and I could hardly wait to sit down, pile them on a plate; smear on some sweet cream butter and then sprinkle some salt and pepper on the whole mess.
Last summer, after Dad recovered from dual brain surgeries, he received a small jar of beans from his sister. They were snap beans and they are also the kind that if you let them dry and go to seed they are good cooked up as pintos served with a side of cornbread. Farmers used to be good at coaxing a living out of the land. A forgotten art in the Raspberry America we live in today. He planted them this past spring and we snapped them and my thumb got sore and I missed a number of strings, but I ate them anyway because I was just so content that Dad could garden and we could be together to share meals and time that I came so close to losing.
We blanched them and put them up in several bags in the freezer. I cooked up one batch by boiling them in salted water; like Dad asked me to. They were kind of boring and he said the he wasn't going to plant beans anymore because they were too much trouble and then he sent the leftovers home with me. Soon after that he had some beans at a pot luck that he thought were outstanding. The lady told him she used garlic and Worcestershire Sauce so we tried that. Yuck. We decided that the lady wanted to keep her Delicious Green Beans recipe a family secret. Again the leftovers went home with me. Then I recalled Grandmother using potatoes and salt pork. I found a recipe that Mom told to me over the phone one day that was pretty close to what I recalled. Mom was always picking Grandma's brain for her recipes. We had to ad lib some with four slices of bacon and only one potato; this time the leftovers went straight into Dad's fridge.Dad was talking about putting in his fall garden a few weeks ago and I asked him if he was going to plant beans again. He said he had spent the morning winnowing the beans from last spring.