My late, dearly missed, Aunt Jean was a childcare provider when I was a kid. Well, really, that is what she did my entire childhood. I think she finally gave it up after her husband, my dear Uncle Bill passed away suddenly from a heart-attack. It was a shock to lose him so suddenly and she was really never the same after he was gone. I remember her talking like he was still there.
I don’t remember this personally, but the story has been told so many times that it feels like a memory. My mama told me that my Uncle Bill loved me like crazy. I can see his face in my mind’s eye now. He was a big man in my estimation, not as big as my daddy, but almost. His trade was glass. He worked at a glass company that made fluorescent signs and cut glass for store fronts. My favorite time of the year was Christmas. Going to Aunt Jean’s house meant getting to see the big Merry Christmas in all its fluorescent glory shining from the window. Uncle Bill had made it for their house. I loved seeing that sign. Well, back in the early 1970′s men who worked close to home, came home for lunch. When I was staying with my Aunt Jean, that meant getting to see my Uncle Bill everyday. When I wasn’t there, he would call to speak to me on the phone. Mama said I loved getting that phone call from Uncle Bill. He was a bear of a man, gruff even, but when around a child, he was soft like a teddy bear. Getting to sit in his lap and being teased was a highlight of getting to see him.
Aunt Jean made all of our meals from scratch. She had a garden patch at our house and with the veggies from that patch she would make a vegetable soup. She would make great big batches of the stuff and can it. I hated that soup! I still can’t eat vegetable soup, well except Progreso Minestrone, I think that’s because of the kidney beans. I love me some kidney beans. I also make what some would call a vegetable soup, but to me, it’s a cabbage beef soup.
Anyway, the one thing that I hated more than that vegetable soup was lima beans, not those nasty green things that people think of. Those are in a can, these are the big white dry beans. I hated lima bean day at the nursery. This is a memory all my own, no one has ever had to remind me of this, although, Aunt Jean sure did tease me about it when I was older. My Aunt Jean would put on a big pot of lima beans. I think that she would put some ham hocks, fat back, or salt pork in them. These were huge lima beans that she cooked up. They were
like an inch and a half long and when I saw those things, they made me gag. She would serve them up in a bowl with buttered cornbread or club crackers. I would see those skins that come off the bean when they are cooked and the little pink wormy things that come out of the middle and I don’t know what my mind imagined they were but I hated them. There would be little bits of stringy ham from the pork and I would refuse to eat them. I would sit there in my high chair until they were cold and completely unpalatable. So then I would get the “feed you like a baby, because you are behaving like one”, speech. Back then it wasn’t “fine” not to eat, the plate must be clean and my aunt grew up in the great depression, you had to eat your food. So, this particular day she sat down in front of me to spoon feed those cold nasty lima beans into my mouth. I remember getting to the point where I couldn’t hold anymore beans in my mouth and I had to swallow. I swallowed and knew that they were not going to stay down. Up they came with a force that sent them all over my Aunt Jean. This was followed by tears, lots of tears, probably some shed by Aunt Jean too!
I never had to eat those beans again. I still think it would have been grand to be able to do that with the vegetable soup, but alas, that was a weekly battle to face. The thing is, I grew to love lima beans. My mama made them and as a teen, I would even eat them left-over for breakfast the next day. I love them now, this week I am going to cook a giant pot of them. I am going to use two big bags of dried beans and I have some salt pork in the freezer to add to the pot. I have learned not to season them until they are completely cooked. I am also going to make a cast iron, skillet, corn bread and we will have plenty of butter to spread on it and I must have the brown sugar handy for Berry’s cornbread. But for me, I just need a big ol’ bowl, plenty of salt and pepper to grind over them and a piece of cornbread to crumble in them, I will be one happy girl and there will be no throwing up or being grossed out over bean skins and pink worms. There will also be no chance of having to force either of my girls to eat them, or my husband. They will arrive at the table at the appointed time with happiness all over their faces because there will be lima beans!!
Sorry Aunt Jean for not appreciating them more when you were just trying to feed a gaggle of kids on a budget and thank you for loving all of us as your own!