Relationships The Word 4 minute read

Navy Beans & Fall Days


I made beans today.  I woke up around 2:00 this morning to pee (haven’t been able to sleep through the night since I carried the boys) and somnolence escaped, as it often does, when I disturb it.  `So, I went into the kitchen, made myself a cup of Chamomile tea, and poured a bag of navy beans into one of the large White porcelain bowls that used to be yours and now are mine, so that they could soak.  They rested; and eventually I did too.

When I went to the store this morning; they were completely out of smoked turkey—Dan, the always friendly butcher said they’d be getting some on Wednesday; but I needed to cook the beans today and didn’t feel like driving across town.  So, I bought a smoked ham hock instead.  I don’t typically eat pork because with our family’s history of high blood pressure, it’s bad for my body; but today I needed something good to nourish my soul.  It had been grumbling lately.

I think that it may be due to the light rains and heavy clouds that have been dancing around the clock:  the clouds have been leading with the rain then following step.  Together, they’ve created a perfect California fall waltz.

It would be around this time that you’d begin talking about the Thanksgiving turkey.  We had the same number of people over for Thanksgiving every year; but every year you’d begin questioning aloud what size turkey you should get.  “You think I should do 21 pounds or 22 pounds this year?  And you know they are frying turkeys now?  Wonder where I can buy one of those fried turkeys?  I bet they are good.  Regardless, you’d roast a 21-pound Butterball turkey overnight—shuffling to the kitchen in one of your housecoats– every 2 hours to baste it.  Ain’t nothing worse than a dry turkey, Randi . . . .”

I’d wake up early to smells of sage, rosemary, celery, and thyme and find you bent over, peering through the glass window in the oven, monitoring the bird’s progress and admiring its beauty like a new father stares through the glass in the hospital nursery.  All day, you’d talk about “the bird” until you proudly presented it to our guests and family with orange slices artfully circling the edges of the large ceramic, white, platter that you bought half-off the year we moved.

The presentation of “the bird” marked the end of the season’s first act: in the coming weeks  the smells from the kitchen would noticeably change in concert with the weather; and would continue with this story until March.  Then, the smells would become more subtle and delicate. I’d catch a whiff of cut fresh melon or a whisper of lemon peel as I did my homework at the wooden kitchen table and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat toast.  Those spring smells of new produce and possibility, would lightly pirouette and delicately land around the small kitchen stage.

But, this time of year, the smells were bolder: leaping –a series of grand jetes–to all areas of the house: greeting me at the door when I arrived and clinging to my coat for a while after I had left.  They weren’t fleeting; to the contrary, they hung in the air, like a rich woman’s perfume.  They’d start out shy until heat emboldened them to make grand sweeps across the massive stage of our home until I was lightly yet securely held in their arms.  I’d be comforted there, in them, for hours and hours, as they slowly warmed.

The smells were always there to cradle me, lead me through life’s dances, the same time year after year, even when other things were changing.

So, I made beans today.  I let the smell of smoked ham, celery, onions, garlic and bay leaves simmer all day and wrap me in the familiar smell of home.  For a moment, I felt so content; it was almost as if you were in the kitchen with me.

My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more


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