Baked beans, brown bread and molasses are a delicious piece of my Nova Scotia heritage. My mother along with most mothers of her generation made baked beans & Maritime brown bread or biscuits every Saturday. Mom added a generous amount of molasses to her beans, tasted them and added a little bit more, and a little bit more.
I believe our family has a unique baked beans story. It happened at my Dad’s 85th birthday party at the Lockeport Fire Hall in 2006. We invited friends and family to a roast beef dinner with all the fixins’ which included homemade baked beans.
During the meal, I circulated among the tables to make sure our guests had everything they needed. As my mother’s daughter, I eavesdropped on conversations and discovered people were not talking about the tender roast beef, the silken gravy or the creamy mashed potatoes.
They were talking about the beans. This is what I heard:
- Those beans are some good.
- I wish my wife could make beans like that.
- Could you pass the beans?
- Hey, save some beans for me.
- Have you ever tasted beans like that?
- I wonder what type of beans they are.
- Could we get another bowl of beans?
- Are there any leftover beans on another table?
- Who baked those beans?
- Can I get the recipe?
Guests pretended to take bathroom breaks, when in fact, they were on the prowl for more beans, fully prepared to kidnap any they could find. They used their delicious homemade rolls to get every last drop of beans off their plates. Even the slow cooker appeared to have been licked clean. In some ways, it was like a scene from a creepy movie.
But guests were completely unaware that the beans had a big, big secret. While planning the menu, one of my sisters’-in-law volunteered to bring a very large crock pot of beans. On the eve of the dinner, she prepared to soak the beans overnight. The following morning she checked them and discovered they were still as hard as bullets. That had never happened before. Oh, well, the beans would get softer in the oven, wouldn’t they? My sister-in-law went ahead and added the molasses, onion, salt and pepper, salt pork, dry mustard, ketchup and brown sugar. She put the beans in the oven and hoped for the best.
Hours later she checked on them and they were still as hard as bullets, but why? Oh, dear, there wasn’t any time for wondering. Rather, it was time to pray for a solution and one presented itself, or did it? A restaurant, Thomson’s Drive-in (Now Anchors Away), about 40 minutes away had baked beans on the menu. My sister-in-law called the restaurant to place an order, but it was not as simple as that. They were all out of beans until their order arrived in a few days.
Strike one. Now what? Should they go to the grocery store to buy a case of canned beans?Should we skip beans at the dinner? As they were contemplating their next step, the phone rang and the call display read “Thomson’s Drive-In.” Was a modern day miracle about to happen? The restaurant staff had been digging around in the freezer and found a few bags of baked beans at the very bottom of the freezer. Eureka! The staff offered to begin warming up the frozen beans. My brother and sister-in-law grabbed their crock pot, jumped in the car and sped off to Thomson’s Drive-In to claim the beans. They delivered the beans to the fire hall and left them to heat up for dinner and no one was the wiser.
The magical beans became the big secret of the night. Only my brother and his wife knew the truth. Forget about Dad. Forget about the roast beef. Forget about birthday cake. Forget about the fabulous program we spent hours preparing. A crock pot of humble beans turned out to be the star of the evening.
I guess pessimistic Rachel Lynde from Anne of Green Gables was right when she said,