This morning, scraping some burnt baked beans off the bottom of a pot, I had occasion to remember my Gran.
When we were little, we went to Gran’s for tea every Sunday afternoon, 3 of her seven children, their spouses, and 8 of her many, many grandchildren. Every Sunday was the same: home made mince steak (ground beef) pie, and baked beans. Tea was served about 5:30pm and the beans must have gone on the stove in the scullery no later than 2:30pm for they were always stewed to a treacly mess. Nothing tasted as good as those beans.
Using the same principle, every home in that part of North Belfast put on their sprouts for Christmas dinner on the 12th of July. There was never any danger of having any kind of vegetable al dente.
After Sunday lunch grandchildren were hoisted on to the cleared dining table (oak, with barley twist legs) to sing hymns. All Things Bright and Beautiful, or Onward Christian Soldiers or sometimes, excruciatingly, Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam. At the time, we were led to believe that our Gran liked to hear us sing. Perhaps she did. Our parents, we knew, did not find it so much of a treat. We hated it, not least because the table seemed so high off the ground. The baked beans, of course, would necessitate a trip to the toilet, which was outside where it was dark, and invariably cold and raining. I am not sure what was worse–using the toilet where the seat was always damp and cold, or being the older cousin having to wait outside the wooden door for a smaller relative to finish so you could bring them safe back inside, or standing on that table performing your pious party piece. It was worth it for the beans though–and of course, for Gran.