By Mrs. Elizabeth Clementine Kinney (1810 – 1889)
Th’ AUTUMNAL glories all have passed away:
The forest-leaves no more in hectic red
Give glowing tokens of their brief decay,
But scattered lie or rustle at the tread,
Like whispered warnings from the mouldering dead;
The naked trees stretch out their arms all day,
And each bald hill-top lifts its reverend head
As if for some new covering to pray.
Come, WINTER, then, and spread thy robe of white
Above the desolation of this scene;
And when the sun with gems shall make it bright,
Or, when its snowy folds by midnight’s queen
Are silvered o’er with a serener light,
We’ll cease to sigh for summer’s living green.
My parents were both talented gardeners their entire lives. My father who is in his mid 80’s, still has an enormous garden that is source of nourishment, entertainment and exercise. He is legendary for his tomatoes, apples and sour cherries. Growing up, we helped our parents in the garden, even as little children. Gardening was a necessity, stretching our family food budget and allowing for a few extravagances. Staples of a June garden in Minnesota are spinach, rhubarb, strawberries, sweet peas and green beans. There is nothing better than sweet peas shucked fresh and eaten after a light blanching and nothing worse as far as I am concerned than canned peas.
As a young child, I was a picky eater beyond compare. In the family mythology it has been exaggerated over time, but there is some truth to the suggestion that I subsisted on nothing but Captain Crunch, oatmeal and peanut butter sandwiches for a time as a 3 and 4 year old, winning the battle of wills played out at the dining room table between myself and parents on a daily basis. Today I eat almost anything and everything, but I can remember the Thanksgiving day dinner 20 years ago, when my Mother was visiting and she was shocked to see me preparing green beans for the holiday table given my history as a child.
In that childhood garden there were two very long rows of beans each year. As children we he helped our mom pick them each day. No matter how you try and stay ahead of picking beans in season, inevitably some get bigger, thicker and tougher than is ideal from a taste and texture perspective. But my parents were born during the depression. Waste not, want not was ingrained and every other day, during bean season my Mom would process all of them into the freezer by cutting them, blanching them, putting them into a one family meal serving portion in a baggy and then storing them in little white boxes that had folding tops into the freezer. The boxes were cardboard and looked much like a take-out box from a chinese restaurant. By the middle of July the large freezer in the basement would be full to the brim on one side with rows and rows of stacked green and yellow beans. I hated them. It meant a monotonous fare of woody tasting green and yellow beans for dinner throughout the fall and winter. So it came as quite a surprise to my Mother to see me not only preparing green beans but having a second helping during dinner.
This is a recipe that is a bit of my own culinary creation. The beauty of this dish is that its fast to prepare, the last thing you make to put on the holiday table and its festive and delicious.
Second Helping Green Beans
Time – Start to finish, less than 10 minutes.
- About a 1/2 pound of green beans, washed and kept long with only bad spots or stems trimmed
- 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons of a blue cheese of your choice
- slivered almonds to taste (either raw or the flavored kind in the produce section for salads.
Bring salted water in pot to boil. Add green beans to boiling salted water and blanch until hot and bright green color. Don’t over cook, leave the beans crunchy. Drain.
Put a medium-sized sauce pan on medium heat, with a tiny bit of olive oil or butter in it, add the blue cheese. It will start to melt quickly, almost immediately, be careful not to burn it, lifting the pan off the heat if it gets too hot. Add the green beans before it’s all melted and stir. The heat of the beans will also help melt the blue cheese. Coat the green beans in the blue cheese. It will be a thin coating, hardly visible. Quickly add your cranberries and almonds. Stir quickly, mixing them throughout. Turn off heat and put in covered dish and serve. Don’t scrimp on the cranberries and almonds. Be prepared that if you make this once, you will be requested to make it again at the next holiday gathering.
by Mary Oliver
They’re not like peaches or squash. Plumpness isn’t for them. They like being lean, as if for the narrow path. The beans themselves sit quietly inside their green pods. Instinctively one picks with care, never tearing down the fine vine, never not noticing their ripped bodies, or feeling their willingness for the pot, for the fire.
I have thought sometimes that something-I can’t name it- – watches as I walk the rows, accepting the gift of their lives to assist mine.
I know what you think: this is foolishness. They’re only vegetables. Even the blossoms with which they begin are small and pale, hardly significant. Our hands, or minds, our feet hold more intelligence. With this I have no quarrel.
But, what about virtue?