Green Bean Casserole


Our garden was sowed late this spring so the harvest has been late as well.  We are overwhelmed with tomatoes, carrots, corn and zucchini and are giving away as much as we are keeping. We have just finished picking all the bush beans–several 10 gallon buckets full–and spent several evenings sitting and snapping them, preparing them for blanching and freezing, with visions of green bean casserole during the winter months dancing in our heads.

Bean snapping is one of those uniquely front porch American Gothic kind of activities.  Old black and white Saturday matinee movies would somehow work in a bean snapping scene with an old maid aunt sitting on her ranch house porch.  She’d be rocking back and forth in her rocking chair, her apron wrinkled and well-worn, her graying hair in a bun at the nape of her neck and wearily pushing back tendrils of hair from her face. As the sole guardian, she’d be counseling some lonely orphaned niece or nephew about life’s rough roads and why their dog or pony had just died and then pausing for a moment holding a bean in her hand, she’d talk about how to cope when things are tough. She was the rock for this child’s life.  Then she’d rather gruffly shove a bowl of unsnapped beans in the child’s lap, and tell them to get back to work–life goes on–start snapping. Then she’d look at that precious child out of the corner of her eye, betraying the love and compassion that dwells in her heart but was not in her nature to speak of.  If only that grieving child understood they sat upon a rock of strength and hope.

So life goes on after tragedy.  Even on a day eight years ago when life as we knew it ended in fire and smoke for thousands of innocents.  A day that started like any other but ended up changing us all beyond recognition.  We are hated and we will wear the scars forever.  It bears talking about possible responses to hatred with one’s children over bean snapping.  It is too easy to learn to hate because we are hated. Finding forgiveness is much harder work.

Just as I sat with my mother snapping beans some 40+ years ago and talked about some difficult things that were unique to the 60’s,  I sat snapping beans this week together with my family, talking about  hopes and disappointments and fears and listened to our children grumble that I was making them do something so utterly trivial when from their perspective, there are far more important things to be doing. My response is a loving and gruff “keep snapping”.  Of course we really don’t have to snap the beans, as they could be frozen whole, but they pack tighter snapped, and it is simply tradition to do so.  We enjoy that crisp satisfying crack of a perfectly bisected bean broken by hand–no need for knife to cut off the top and tail.    We prepare for a coming winter by putting away the vegetables we have sowed and weeded and watered and cared for, because life will go on and eating the harvest of our own soil and toil is sweet.  We must do this. Indeed it is all we can do when the world is tumbling down around us.

Indeed, I want to be more rubbery like a bean that doesn’t snap automatically under pressure, more resilient.

There is an old Shaker Hymn that I learned long ago and sing to myself when I need to be reminded where I must end up when I’m at the breaking point.

I will bow and be simple,
I will bow and be free,
I will bow and be humble,
Yea, bow like the willow tree.

I will bow, this is the token,
I will wear the easy yoke,
I will bow and will be broken,
Yea, I'll fall upon the rock.

As people of resilient faith we seek to wear the yoke we’ve been given to pull, bow in humility under its burden and know the freedom that comes with service to others.  Even in the midst of the most horrific brokenness, we fall upon the rock that bears us up with love and compassion that we are often not even aware of.  It is there under us and we’ve done nothing whatsoever to earn it.

Time for us to get back to work and start snapping–life does go on.