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Edie at home in her kitchen.

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The View from Mary's Farm

The View from Mary's Farm Winter 2006

January 1, 2006

Bean Time

I have come to love being snowed in, no way out until the storm ends. Deep in snow, the big greystone trees that surround my fields stand watch and I sink down into the release of a day all my own. Sometimes, especially on these days, I get a hankering for baked beans. Last year we had a lot of snow days so I made a lot of beans.
Over the years, I have collected bean pots and bean recipes. Ive found people are passionate about beans and you can spark quite a discussion about what kind of beans to use when making baked beans. Pea beans. Kidney beans. Yellow eyes and black eyes, black turtle beans, lima beans and, good heavens, even soybeans.
Im a fan and defender of navy beans, also known as Great Northern or pea beans. I still use the first bean pot I ever had, which belonged to my grandmother. Ive tried all 37 of the pots that I own and this one makes the best baked beans of any of them. It is unglazed on the outside, giving the feel, if not the exact color, of a flowerpot but the inside is glazed, a glossy deep cinnamon color. The lid (the Achilles heal of bean pots at least half the bean pots I see are missing their lids, the casualty of time and the mobility of the human race) is all glazed, with a small hole for escaping steam,
When a good storm heads this way, I put a quart of navy beans into the bean pot, cover them with water and leave them to soak in the pot overnight. All night, while the storm pounds the house, the beans plump up. In the morning, the road not yet plowed, I parboil the beans, a gentle process to soften the beans. Im still in my nightgown and the snow outside is still falling. After a while, I spoon up a few beans, blow on them and if the skins crack open, I turn off the heat and get ready for the bake. The oven in the wood cookstove is already at a good low heat never above 250*. I drain and rinse the beans. Into the bottom of the pot, I put a small onion, cut in half. The onion adds the same kind of sweetness as the salt pork, without the fat. On top of the onion, I pour the drained beans.
Every recipe I have calls for molasses and I used to use it, all the time. But years ago I worked with a woman in Vermont who gave me her bean recipe. No surprise, hers called for maple syrup instead of molasses or brown sugar. This is the recipe Ive used ever since. By January, my years supply of maple syrup is ready to be emptied into the bean pot. So, with pleasure, I measure 1 cups of maple syrup into a pint of boiling water and then I add cup of apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons of dry mustard, a teaspoon of ginger, a teaspoon of salt and some fresh ground pepper. I pour this over the beans, which usually covers them. If not, I add some more. I set the lid on. And into the warm oven they go.
I have a pile of books I save for stormy days. I choose one and settle next to the stove. The kitchen fills with the sweet scent of the oven beans. The day goes by this way, the luxury of time like the pleasure of a good dessert. Occasionally, I lift the lid to make sure the beans are not getting dry. If they are, I add hot water and tuck them back in for a while. After about six hours, the beans have turned a golden brown. I ladle a few out of the pot and let them cool before I taste. Sweet surrender. I want to eat the whole pot. Usually by then the snow has stopped and the road is plowed, leaving silence and the brilliance of the new snow. And a pot of beans for the rest of the busy week.

Edie Clark

Selected Works

Articles
In 1992, the Bishop of Worcester condemned St. Joseph's Catholic Church and ordered it closed. The parishioners refused to leave, sleeping on cots and on the hard pews. For thirteen months this was their life. In July of 1993, they were removed by the police. In many ways this was the blossoming of their faith. Originally published in Yankee Magazine in November 1993.
Growing up, nothing I could do seemed to please my mother and nothing she said made sense to me. But when my mother, on the threshold of death, came to live with me, I found what seemed to have been lost forever. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1995
(The follow-up article to Miracle at St. Joseph's.) The Bishop turned to them and said, "Your prayers have been answered, the hard hearts have softened." Originally published in Yankee Magazine, December 1996
A reflection on the power of cooking and friendship and the concept of family. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, November/December 2007
Memorial Day, Harrisville, New Hampshire 1995. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1996
My Articles
Libraries occupy a special place in the heart of a town. Evening events at the library give a strong sense of community and make it seem like a great place to live. And in the wake of the online revolution small town libraries have found a way to not only survive but to be indispensable.
In December 2008 an epic ice storm left virtually the entire state of New Hampshire without power. The residual effects of that storm paralyzed the Monadnock Region almost through Christmas. A first person account.
In 1994, sixteen-year-old Billy Best was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. After several treatments, he ran away to avoid chemotherapy. What happened after that may have been a miracle.
Roxanne Quimby once lived primitively in the Maine woods. Today she owns 90,000 acres of those woods, and her goal is to create a national park to preserve the landscape forever. So why do so many people wish she'd just go away?
Multi-million dollar border stations are rising along our line between US and Canada. What was once the "friendliest border" has become deadly serious.
Renowned short story writer, Andre Dubus, reflects on the accident that cost him his legs.
A trip to Poland discovers a beloved family friend
An elegy for the master of the short story.
Fall comes to The County
Thousands seek healing from this innocent, comatose child.
A complete listing of articles published since 1978
Fiction
An encounter with a sick fox brings a young woman to the heart of her grief