Jacob's Cattle without marching bands

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A television man tells me football is offered in such profusion because we people like to watch football. This may be a good thing, since there is so little else to watch. When the family came for the holiday, my usual pattern of anything else was rigidly adhered to, and on the Saturday I baked a pot of beans , but the television was turned on for the first time in months and I presumed folks were sitting about looking at football.

This was a special pot of beans, because after years of growing none I planted some Jacob's Cattle last spring, and once again I have my own beans to bake. (Every time I've mentioned Jacob's Cattle beans, a misdoubt accrues yonder , where many seem not to know about this best of all baking beans. They think I am talking about an inferior bean meant for rough feeding cattle and not really good for people-persons. Wrong. Look at the 30th chapter of Genesis, Verse 39, and then understand that Jacob's Cattle beans are speckled and spotted. There are other good baking beans, but Jacob's Cattle suit me fine.)

The gentle art of baking a good bean, Maine style, is not rightly elucidated in any cookery book. There, you can find out how to soak and parboil, how to lay in a chunk of salt pork, how to deploy the mustard and molasses, and sometimes how to arrange the fundamental onion. Some books suggest tomato sauce, but this is banned in Boston and points north. Fine, but the best-laid schemes of proper beans gang aft a-gley if the pot, when ready, is not attended in its proper environment with TLC. It must be a crockery pot, and it must be subjected to at least a daylong wood fire in a biscuit oven.

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I happen, even though our home runs to the modern, to be equipped with a Magic Marvel cookstove. I made a shelter down by the shore, with Filon panels, so we can have picnics in inclement weather, and with a tin stovepipe I set up a midget version of an old-time kitchen range. I found it in a junk boutique. This gazebo is some distance from the house, so I do a lot of walking, but I can bake a Saturday pot of beans in Old Style with only one grievous fault - the aroma pervades my gazebo and the shore, and never gets to the kitchen. Every half hour or so I walk down to sniff, add water, and restoke.

So I was occupied with my beans, and along in the afternoon I came to the house to find the folks sitting by the television watching a motorcycle race. I was interested to learn that the set was still working after months of idleness, but I didn't know any channel put on a motorcycle race in football prime time. But there it was - motorcycles bouncing around making a nasty noise, mud and dust, and each motorcycle rider looking just like all the others. I asked, ''How do you tell 'em apart?''

''You can't.''

''Then why watch it?''

''Half time - there's nothing on but marching bands and this.''

The marching band is one thing that would make me look at a motorcycle race, being of a mind that a perambulating tuba might possibly be considered entertainment if the TV engineers ever learned to pick up music from the middle of a football field. So I accepted this explanation and asked what teams were playing today.

''On which channel?''

See?

One game was a Texas team against another Texas team, and you could tell them apart because one side had red shirts. I have no idea why a Maine television station thinks we people need to see two Texas teams, with marching bands at half time. As I thought about it, I appreciated the kindness of a motorcycle race. Then I returned to my beans.

As serving time approaches, I like to let the pot run a mite dry so the salt pork crusts and the top layer of beans takes on a cheerful brown. Everything seemed to be cooperating, and timed to the second I brought my pot of Jacob's Cattle beans to the house, permitting some steam to erupt and adorn the football field down in Texas. I poured the beans into a tureen and whacked a tin pie plate with a spoon. Americans may indeed love football, but honest competition can prevail. We did have such a good supper, and did Texas win or lose?

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