Saturday, June 16, 2007

Snapping Beans

I remember sitting on my grandparents' back porch. We would go out early in the day and pick a large bowl of string beans, still fuzzy on the outside. My grandmother, who was my grandfather's second wife, would always ask for me to help her snap the beans after we picked them. This method was very precise, one bowl and one colander. Each bean was methodically snapped on each end and then put in the colander for washing. My grandmother allowed me the pleasure of snapping each bean while she sat in her metal, red, rocking chair. My grandmother was a wonderful cook and baker. She made meals straight from her garden each evening that were mouthwatering. We had a formal meal every evening. I got a bath and I dressed appropriately. In the morning, I would arise to the smell of hot, homemade, cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. My grandmother always wore an apron or smock over her dress when she was at home or in the garden. In the pocket of that apron she kept her cigarettes.

While I snapped each crunchy bean my grandmother rocked and smoked. We always were alone, she made sure of that. While she rocked my grandmother would note interesting things, "Look, there's a hummingbird!" "The rabbits are eating on the cabbages," "My goodness it's a warm day!" All the while I snapped the beans. I heard her words but I also took it all in, the sounds of the birds, the raking sound the rocking chair made on the cool concrete, and the snap of each bean. During her last drag of her cigarette she would say, "Let this be our little secret." She would lean forward snuff out her cigarette on the concrete and stick all of it back in her pocket. I would only nod, wondering why snapping beans was such a secret.

When my grandmother died I remember adults dressed in black standing around in the dining room. I remember being bored by their talking, and impressed by their shiny black shoes. They talked in hushed tones, "I didn't know she smoked?" I shot a glance over to her apron hanging on the back of a kitchen chair. She had left it there hurriedly I'm sure because it was out of place.
"Sure she did, she always smoked while we snapped the beans. She keeps them in her apron pocket!" my young voice rang out.

To this day I eat snap green beans uncooked, almost like potato chips. I get stares, and questions, "you just eat them raw?" The nostalgia of a warm day sweeps over me. "Let this be our little secret." - Custom comment codes


Jen Barney said...

I think our grandmothers were alike. Babci would get so excited to get the garden ready... I would get ready to help her can- I too can remember the smell of the dill- the carrots popping from the ground-the smell of the old lilac tree out back. It was good times!

Jen Barney said...


Sarah Amick said...

It seems all my times in Pennsylvania centered around my grandfather's garden. We spent a lot of time out there and they had the blackest soil. It was like oil, and it had a very distint smell that got on the bottom of our shoes.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

What a sweet story. I love the tension you included by making the secret about such a no-no.

Sarah Amick said...

As a child when I figured the secret out I thought it was humorous that I had one up on the adults in my life. Now the story is nostalgic.

Kirsten said...

The BIG 30! You are awesome!