Just as good the next day
August 4, 2013
Four words: Kentucky. Wonder. Green. Beans.
These things are the caviar, the prime rib, the fresh Maine lobster, of the summer garden vegetable world. Well, those and July heirloom tomatoes and Silver Queen corn.
And I found some of them at the Farmers’ Market Saturday morning. In the rain. Never has getting soaked been so worth it.
You see, my Daddy would grow only two varieties of beans: Blue Lake, which bore early, and Kentucky Wonders, which bore later, and well on into the long autumn. Blue Lakes were OK. The day we picked the first mess of Kentucky Wonders was akin to a national holiday.
I am even immortalized on YouTube, praising Kentucky Wonders in my debut story I read at Tales from the South. I still think it’s the best of the three I’ve done.
Kentucky Wonders are flatter, knobbier, with much more pronounced strings that most green beans. They should be cooked with some variety of cured pork — I used three strips of bacon, cut up, and that was Just Fine — and plain white salt (and not too much of it), and they should be brought to a quick boil and then simmered very, very low for at least an hour. Or more. You can put in new potatoes if you want. They’ll turn dark, but that’ll be ok.
When they’re soft — meltingly soft, just a tiny bit of texture left — they develop an almost slightly sweet, earthy taste, of which any other green bean is but a pale approximation.
They were named poorly. They should have been called Sweet Baby Jesus green beans. And you should always make a huge pot of them, because they’re just as good warmed up the next day.
I got started Saturday morning, when I braved the rain and capped off a morning of errand-running (office supply shopping early Saturday at Sam’s on school tax holiday weekend is a Good Thing) with a stop by the Farmers’ Market on my way back to Kate’s. The rain had slacked up from the 8 a.m. downpour to a gentle level, enough so that I disdained the umbrella and counted on my ballcap to keep my glasses dry. I wandered through, purchase-less, first, to get an idea what I wanted and check prices before I came back through and picked up what I wanted.
And out past the end of the pavilion, under a 12-x-12 canopy, where I’d stopped to look at peaches and stuff, I saw on the next table over, the magic words: “Kentucky Wonder.”
My mouth dropped open and my eyes lit up. “Oh, my God,” I intoned. “Kentucky Wonders. I haven’t seen Kentucky Wonders for years!”
The teenager manning the counter smiled. “They’re good, aren’t they?” he said. “How many you want?”
I refrained from getting all they had left — about four quart baskets full. I settled for two. I didn’t want to deprive someone else of the joy of those beans.
I quickly added a dozen ears of Esau corn, from Dumas, AR, some of the best sweet corn you’ll ever find; some cherry tomatoes (as I knew we were getting tomatoes from a friend of Kate’s later that day); some more peaches, because I am eating nearly my weight in peaches; and some free-range pork chops. M’mm h’mmm. I was thinking about dinner, I’m telling you.
Get back, and Kate’s friend Laura comes over with a huge load of produce — tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, okra, eggplant, squash. I thawed the chops, put together a quick marinated veggie salad with carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes; took a nap, then got up and snapped the beans and put them on. There’s something about the rhythm of snapping green beans that’s wonderfully relaxing, by the way. I cut up the okra and let it sit on the counter in a bowl to get good and slimy.
Later on, I made creamed corn and fried the pork chops and okra, and sliced one of Laura’s tomatoes. Made a skillet of thin cornbread, with a good ratio of crunch to inside; laid on a slab of butter, and that was dinner. I about, as Grandmama would have said, “foundered myself.” Dear Sweet Baby Jesus. There are no words.
Today, I warmed up corn and green beans, sliced some tomato and added a spoonful (well, OK, two spoonsful. OK, maybe three) of green beans, and slapped it in the microwave. If it is at all possible, it was even better today, albeit I didn’t have the okra or pork chop.
Didn’t miss the pork chop. The okra would’ve been nice.
I can only hope those people planted lots of green beans, because, like sweet corn, I’ll buy ‘em as long as they have ‘em. If you ‘n y’mama ‘n ‘em know any other NE Arkansas sources for ‘em, let me know. And know that I’m going to plant some for myownself next year.