Snapping Green Beans
by John C. Westervelt
From my 1999 archives with a new message for today.
Have you snapped green beans lately? Have the children at your house ever snapped green beans?
Recently my neighbor gave me a sack of green beans freshly picked from her garden. The last time I snapped green beans was sixty years ago as a boy. My mother, brother, sister, and I would gather around the newspaper-covered, dining room table. A peck of green beans would be dumped in the center. I would break the tip off of each end before snapping the bean into three or four pieces. Some of the green beans would be cooked and eaten right away. The rest were canned in Mason glass jars.
As I began to snap the gift beans, I visualized sitting with my family as a boy. However, this time the house was quiet. My ear recognized that the spoken word “snap” and the sound of the snapped bean was an onomatopoeia, a term my junior high English teacher insisted I learn. My nose sensed a green-bean smell from the minute spray emitted as the fresh bean broke apart.
As a boy, a summer meal was sometimes a pot of green beans with small potatoes and ham hock. So I decided to go to the store and ask the butcher for a ham hock.
Most of the afternoon was gone by the time the beans were ready to take to my brother’s house where I would join his visiting grandchildren for supper. I suppose if you didn’t have an afternoon as I did, you could heat a can of blue lake green beans for supper. If you had eaten my green beans, you would have been a little disappointed in the taste of those out of a can.
And now, my message from today:
My mother, a home economics teacher, fed her family lots of green beans. My wife Nelda often served green beans. Since becoming a widower twenty-eight years ago, I have cooked my own meals that include green beans.
I cooked flat cut brisket in the oven and chicken breast fillets on the Hasty Bake. The meat was packaged in individual servings and stored in the freezer.
For supper, I would fix a baked potato and brisket one night and rice and chicken the next. Green beans from a can were on the menu for every supper, along with carrots, celery, and broccoli cooked together. Some years later, I added a fork full of spinach just in case it had a nutrient not found in the others. When the newspaper reported that tomatoes contained a useful antioxidant, I added a heaping tablespoon of diced tomatoes on top of the green beans.
In my mid-eighties and living at Crestwood at Oklahoma Methodist Manor in Tulsa, I continued to do my own cooking for two and half years.
That all changed in November 2014. My swallowing flapper valve, which determines if the throat is connected to the lungs or the esophagus, wore out. Modern medicine gave me a new lease on life with a PEG tube for feeding. I now get a Nestle nutritional drink five times a day. I miss the taste of green beans, but hopefully the drink will give me some more time to follow my vision recorded in July 1995 –
“I hope when I reach the end of the trail that folks along the pathway of life will have been encouraged by my having passed their way.”
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