Mixed String Beans and Mixed Summer Veggie Memories

mixed string beans

by JenniferA - Bread and Putter on August 16, 2011

I remember eating quite a few vegetables from cans when I was a kid. There was that phase when I was a huge Popeye fan and I begged my mother for canned spinach.  She obliged, and I tried really hard to actually eat it.  It didn’t go well.  Not even for Popeye could I down that green glop. Then there were the usuals – corn niblets, peas, and green beans. The corn was okay, and to this day I will occasionally use it in shepherd’s pie. The peas were only okay if they were Green Giant Le Sueur baby peas. And you had to say Le Sueur with your best French accent when you were eating them.  Years later, when I got my future husband’s chicken pot pie recipe I found out that he also insisted on Le Sueur peas, so clearly it was meant to be.

But I digress.  The worst canned vegetable (of the regular ones, not the spinach which was never spoken of again) was the beans.  And especially the wax beans. My GOD. The wax beans. I hated the wax beans with the white hot intensity of one thousand suns. I’d try to eat them and I’d get that cold mashed potato gag reflex thing going and I just could not do it.

As an aside, I just remembered that other goopy stuff with the lima beans and maybe corn?  What do you call it – begins with an S, like suffragette or Snuffalupagus. That was really bad too.

Sarsaparilla? Sassafrass?  It’s driving me crazy and I refuse to google it.

Succotash!!!!!  That’s it!!!  Sufferin’ succotash indeed.

I am pretty sure it was mostly just my father who liked these things.  My mother heated them up and added butter to make them a little better, but I think she wasn’t too thrilled either. 

Thank goodness for summer.  My mother would plant a garden and we’d have fresh cucumbers and tomatoes and I think summer squash too but I didn’t like that either as a kid.  And we’d have corn on the cob – the perfect vehicle for consuming large quantities of butter and salt!  I remember one summer when we had cherry tomatoes and our basset hound Myrtle would sneak into the garden, pick only the ripe cherry tomatoes, toss them around the yard for awhile, and then eat them.

Myrtle and Ooboo, circa 1981

I don’t really remember if my mother ever grew green beans or not.  I do remember eating them raw the very first time and wondering if it was actually the same vegetable in the dreaded can or not. They were actually good raw!  And then I found out that when they were gently steamed they were okay when cooked as well.  So, now we’ve come full circle and I grow and eat my own green beans.  Well, actually I grow purple beans but they turn green when you cook them.  And the beans at the CSA farm just came ready for picking so I picked some green ones and even the dreaded yellow wax beans!  And the yellow ones might have even been my favorite for snacking while raw.  Go figure. 

But back to the canned stuff for a minute.  I think most people would agree that the texture is the truly egregious part of canned beans and that snappy, steamed beans are far superior. Except maybe some older folks who are so used to canned food and cooked to death that they think a snappy bean is undercooked.  I know my grandma felt that way.  But of course now that I have my own garden and my own beans and my own kitchen I can make them as snappy as I want, right?  Well, I apologize if this changes the way you think about your snappy green beans but my husband has an issue.  He can hear them squeaking against his teeth.  Yes.  Squeaking. 

It’s true.  They really do squeak.  I never heard it till he pointed it out.  I’m sorry if you hear it now too. I can still eat them, even with the squeak.  But it drives him crazy.  So, I compromise.  At least half the time when I am making green beans, I cook them until soft instead of snappy.  They are still better than the canned kind, I promise.  And yes, I know you lose more nutrients the more that you cook them but once you start cooking them in bacon fat, I don’t think you are all that concerned about nutrients.  But if you wanted to, you could cook these even less than I did.  I actually rescued a few from the pan for my plate and to take this picture before I was done cooking them for him. So, as you can see, they still have some life.  But if you do need to cook away the squeak, these flavors should help make it all okay.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne August 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Mmmmmm – bacon. EVERYTHING tastes better with bacon fat. This sounds really good…..

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JenniferA August 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Yup, save that bacon fat! :)

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Valerie August 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I had a similar childhood. My mom didn’t like canned vegetables so I never got them until I started requested creamed corn. We always had frozen veggies but the only way my mom ever cooked them was to boil them then put butter and salt on them. Every vegetable, every time. We eventually got a steamer and she used it twice. This is why it’s so hard for me to think of vegetable side dishes, but I MUST do something other than just cook them. Boiling & buttering =/= delicious.

I still prefer canned corn though, when I can’t get it straight off the cob. And a bit of bacon fat is a great pick me up for MANY THINGS.

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JenniferA August 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I like frozen corn better than canned these days, but I don’t really use either very often. I am getting better about trying new veggies though, especially with the CSA. It forcing me to be more creative with sides and I like it.

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Beth @ 990 Square August 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I shudder now to think of the canned veggies I used to eat!

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JenniferA August 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I know! And on a regular basis! Times are changing in a good way on that front, I think.

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Sheri August 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I hated asparagus, and still do. But I had to make the two spears my mom always put on my plate, so I’d feed them to our dog Sunday. Who miraculously loved them. Until I got caught…

I’m not a green bean fan either, but roasted is edible. I’ve got some brown butter in the fridge and was thinking about sautéing them in that. We keep canned green beans on hand, but the only one in the house that eats them is my dog. :)

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JenniferA - Bread and Putter August 17, 2011 at 12:25 am

Sheri, you crack me up. Glad the dogs in your life have been getting their veggies. :-)

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Adryon August 16, 2011 at 7:15 pm

We keep mason jars of bacon fat in the fridge :). Love the pretty purple beans too!

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JenniferA - Bread and Putter August 17, 2011 at 12:31 am

I like how you said mason jars PLURAL of bacon fat. That’s hardcore.

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Victoria August 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Love how colorful these beans are. The more color on the plate, the better :)

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JenniferA - Bread and Putter August 17, 2011 at 12:32 am

Agreed – and this is the most colorful time of year. Love it!

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Deb August 16, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Lovely photos (pets too!) ! The assorted green beans are beautiful. So much enjoy hearing your family history and the food memories.

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JenniferA - Bread and Putter August 17, 2011 at 12:33 am

Thank you, Deb!

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ameliaps August 17, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Great stories! On my end we had a vegetable and herb garden and that is mostly what we ate. In the winter it was lots of greena, sauteed in garlic and olive oil. I never saw a can or a frozen box: I thank my mom for teaching me healthy habits… And in change I pass them on to my kids!

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Karma August 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Wow, I didn’t remember that Myrtle had gotten that fat so early in her life! (Makes you wonder just a wee bit about our mother’s pet-feeding habits, doesn’t it? Myrtle, Pookie, Charlotte, Raleigh… see a common thread there? 😉 )
I may be crazy, but I’d swear those dang nasty canned yellow wax beans had that awful squeak too? Is that even possible? Canned veggies never come to this house (except tomatoes for cooking) – I prefer frozen to canned if I can’t have fresh. And I think I will have to start saving bacon fat – the suggestions you’ve had for it lately sound awesome!

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