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.
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.
Mixed String Beans with Garlic 1 pound string beans, any color, trimmed and strings removed if prominent 1 tablespoon bacon fat (or butter) 1 large or two medium garlic cloves, chopped ¼ cup dry white wine Melt the bacon fat over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and sauté a minute or two until fragrant. Add the beans, reduce heat to medium and continue to sauté until beans are starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with plenty of fresh ground pepper. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until beans reach desired level of doneness – squeaky, semi-squeaky, or soft.
Mixed String Beans with Garlic
1 pound string beans, any color, trimmed and strings removed if prominent
1 tablespoon bacon fat (or butter)
1 large or two medium garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
Melt the bacon fat over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and sauté a minute or two until fragrant. Add the beans, reduce heat to medium and continue to sauté until beans are starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with plenty of fresh ground pepper. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until beans reach desired level of doneness – squeaky, semi-squeaky, or soft.