Dinner time was not a pleasant experience for me as a child. My parents didn’t force feed me; they forced me to force feed myself, and it was grueling fare: navy beans, fried liver, baked eggplant, baked squash, peas, and other vile food that brought me and my younger brother Jack to the brink of puking. I can still see him straining to keep down a tiny, nauseating smidgen of dinner. Dinner time was a rough situation for us kids, with liver being served for two solid weeks because it was on sale, no doubt because no other family in the metropolitan area would eat the stuff. I suspect all the meat departments in our city shipped all their liver to the supermarket down the street from my mother. Jack and I hated the stuff. I remember later as an adult a chef friend of mine told me his liver and onions were superb and I needed to try them. I can’t believe I fell for that trick; his liver was just a tad less nasty than my Mom’s.
However, out of this tragedy comes melancholy comedy. Here is a true tale from my past.
When I was a child, one of my favorite candies was Boston Baked Beans. My younger brother, Jack, loved them too. They are tasty little candy coated peanuts in a box, and we ate them often. When you were finished with the candy, you could use the box to make sound effects by blowing into the open end of the box. After doing that to twenty boxes, you’d think a kid would grow weary of the noise, but no, not Jack and I.
One Saturday my Mom announced to the family that we were going to have Boston Baked Beans for dinner. Jack and I believed our mother, for she never lied. “Kids, we are having Boston Baked Beans tonight.” As far as we were concerned, it was a reprieve, a moment of joy, a candy meal, and we ran around the house excited as could be.
However, I was older than Jack, and I became suspicious of the oven. Inside was a brown crock pot with aromas that did not smell like Boston Baked Beans candy made by the Ferrara Candy Company. I told Jack of my concerns, but he was too ecstatic to think clearly. All he could see was Boston Baked Beans candy in his little genius brain. Jack was focused!
Dinner time approached. Because my mother had invested in a crock pot and was cooking a unique meal, which meant no liver, she was making a big deal of it. Special place mats were put out. We set the table with the better plates. That meant something, didn’t it? It was really going to be a candy meal!
Then we all sat down at the table. I can still Jack’s happy little face. I can still the joy in his countenance as Mom gently bore the crock pot to the table. I can still see his face drop as she lifted the lid. I can still see his tears start to form as he realized that this wasn’t a candy meal. It was a bean meal! Drats! I was disappointed, and deep in my heart I was aware that our mother, bless her heart, had not contacted the Ferrara Candy Company. She had not used their recipe to cook Boston Baked Beans. Somehow, inexplicably, in one of life’s cruel twists of fate, Boston baked beans were beans.
I thought they tasted better than the lima beans she normally cooked. Those Boston baked beans had real seasoning and spices and salt. Our mother had a real recipe this time. But Jack? He took it so hard, and his bottom lip trembled during the entire meal.