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Food Sites for October 2020

Saturday, September 12, 2020

 

Kosmic ornamental kale


We’re so looking forward to cooler weather, when we can use the oven for slow cooking again. We’re not completely tired of outdoor grilling, yet—but there’s a stash of duck confit, pork belly, and garlic sausage in the freezer, just waiting to become cassoulet. It’s not something we would have considered, let alone eaten, during the summer doldrums.


Penwipe Publishing remains on staycation, but it hasn’t kept us from pecking away at the keyboard. So far. Our blog posted another short story this month; “Stomach Problems” is part of a book-length collection of fables, still in its infancy. We may have drifted away from writing about food history, but our appetites remain somewhere on the greediness spectrum between infantile and adolescent.


Look below for a few more podcasts to distract you from the media’s never-ending chatter about the pandemic.


You can, if you wish, follow us on Facebook (where, among other things, we post a LOT of photographs), and Twitter. Still more of our online scribbles can be found at A Quiet Little Table in the Corner. There’s even an Amazon author’s page, mostly about our food writing.


Looking forward to fall, a few goodies from On the Table’s culinary quote collection:


Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of each. Grow green with the spring, yellow and ripe with autumn. Henry David Thoreau


My favorite word is ‘pumpkin.’ You can’t take it seriously. But you can’t ignore it, either. It takes ahold of your head and that’s it. You are a pumpkin. Or you are not. I am. Harrison Salisbury


As the days grow short, some faces grow long. But not mine. Every autumn, when the wind turns cold and darkness comes early, I am suddenly happy. It’s time to start making soup again. Leslie Newman

Gary
October, 2020


PS: If you encounter broken links, changed URLs—or know of wonderful sites we’ve missed—please drop us a line. It helps to keep this resource as useful as possible for all of us. To those who have pointed out corrections or tasty sites (this month we’re tipping our hat to Cynthia Bertelsen), thanks, and keep them coming!


PPS: If you wish to change the e-mail address at which you receive these newsletters, or otherwise modify the way you receive our postings or—if you’ve received this newsletter by mistake, and/or don’t wish to receive future issues—you have our sincere apology and can have your e-mail address deleted from the list immediately. We’re happy (and continuously amazed) that so few people have decided to leave the list but, should you choose to be one of them, let us know and we’ll see that your in-box is never afflicted by these updates again. You’ll find links at the bottom of this page to fix everything to your liking.



— the new sites —


Aided by Modern Ingenuity, a Taste of Ancient Judean Dates

(Isabel Kershner’s article, in The New York Times, about the successful fruiting of Israeli date palms from 2,000-year-old seeds)


Birth of the Modern Diet

(Rachel Lauden’s Scientific American article traces it back to seventeenth-century notions about nutrition)


Divided States of Chili: A Guide to America’s Most Contentious Stew

(Sho Spaeth goes where Anglos fear to tread for Serious Eats)


Downfall of Rosewater, Once America’s Favorite Flavor, The

(Jaya Saxena’s GastroObscura piece on a nearly forgotten kitchen staple)


Gahwa Renaissance

(Arabic coffee ritual and etiquette, from Shaistha Khan, in AramcoWorld)


History of Howard Johnson’s Restaurant, The

(Christopher Setterlund’s account of the first franchised restaurant chain)


Jiggly Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Jell-O in the South, The

(Kinsey Gidick writes about a “gelatinous trend” in a Nashville restaurant, for southern magazine Garden & Gun)


New Worlds and New Tastes: Early Modern Europe

(Brian Cowan’s paper on the forces that changed European gastronomy, beginning in the sixteenth century; a PDF)


Recreate the Ancient Egyptian Recipes Painted on Tomb Walls

(Jess Eng translates a couple of dishes from hieroglyphs for GastroObscura)


Thirsty? Oh Yeah!

(David Buck waxes nostalgic about Kool-Aid for Tedium)


What Bread Tasted Like 4,000 Years Ago

(Keridwen Cornelius and Sapiens, in The Atlantic, on efforts to recreate the sourdough of Ancient Egypt)



— inspirational (or otherwise useful) sites for writers/bloggers —


Bizarre Foods


Brewing Mesopotamian Beer Brings a Sip of This Vibrant Ancient Drinking Culture Back to Life


From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies


Great Advice From 25 Writing Manuals by Famous Authors


How 12 Female Cookbook Authors Changed the Way We Eat


How Boxed Mac and Cheese Became a Pantry Staple


James Beard Was Anti-Elitist. He Would Hate the Awards that Bear His Name.


One Tasmanian's 54-Year Obsession to Catalogue All of the World's Edible Plants to End Malnutrition


Philosophy has Been Wrong About Wine for 2500 Years


Picnicsonfilm.org


Pirate Who Penned the First English-Language Guacamole Recipe, The


Redemption of the Spice Blend, The


Strange Grief of Losing My Sense of Taste, The


Why Americans Just Can’t Quit Their Microwaves


Why Americans Can’t Write


Wine, Food, and Life Itself



— podcasts —


Doughboys


Home Cooking


I’ll Drink to That!


It’s A Gourmet World After All


PROOF


Spilled Milk



— another blog —


Stained Page News



— that’s all for now —


Except, of course, for the usual legalistic mumbo-jumbo and commercial flim-flam:


As an Amazon Associate, this newsletter earns from qualifying purchases made through it. These include my own books (listed below), and occasional books mentioned in the entries above. If you order any books via those links, the price you pay is not increased by my commission. 


Occasionally, URLs we provide may link to commercial sites (that is, they’ll cost you money to take full advantage of them). We do not receive any compensation for listing them here, and provide them without any form of recommendation—other than the fact that they looked interesting to us.


Your privacy is important to us. We will not give, sell or share your e-mail address with anyone, for any purpose—ever. Nonetheless, we will expose you to the following irredeemably brazen plugs for our books:


The Resource Guide for Food Writers
(Hardcover)
(Paper)
(Kindle)
(newsletters like this merely update the contents of the book; what doesn’t appear here is already in the book)


The Herbalist in the Kitchen
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)


The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food And Drink Industries
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)


Human Cuisine
(Paper)
(Kindle)


Herbs: A Global History
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)


Sausage: A Global History
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)


Can It! The Perils and Pleasures of Preserving Foods
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)


Sauces Reconsidered: Après Escoffier

(Hardcover)
(Kindle)


Terms of Vegery
(Kindle)


How to Serve Man:
On Cannibalism, Sex, Sacrifice, & the Nature of Eating
(Kindle)


How to Write a Great Book
(Kindle)


The Digressions of Dr Sanscravat: Gastronomical Ramblings & Other Diversions
(Kindle)


Ephemera: a short collection of short stories
(Kindle)


Prophet Amidst Losses
(Kindle)


Cenotaphs
(Kindle)


Future Tense: Remembrance of Things Not Yet Past
(Kindle)


Here endeth the sales pitch(es)...


...for the moment, anyway.


______________


The Resource Guide for Food Writers, Update #240 is protected by copyright, and is provided at no cost, for your personal use only. It may not be copied or retransmitted unless this notice remains affixed. Any other form of republication—unless with the author’s prior written permission—is strictly prohibited.


Copyright ©2020 by Gary Allen.


Stomach Problems

Thursday, September 3, 2020

 


It’s a terrible thing to be ruled by one’s appetite; having to spend every waking moment wondering what—if anything—is for lunch; sniffing the air for dinner suggestions; and howling in the dark over the emptiness of one’s stomach. Worse, people hate me for the very thing I can never control.

Perhaps they attack me for what they fear to find in themselves. It disgusts them. I disgust—and frighten—them.

I freely confess to having a big appetite; but, no matter how much they preach about moderation and a healthy diet, I still can’t stop myself from eating everything I get the chance to sink my teeth into. You think fat-shaming is bad?

Try being a wolf.

Life is brutal and unfair in a world over-run with judgmental humans. At best, they mistrust me and regard me as some sort of evil monster. At worst—well I don’t like to think too much about that.

It’s depressing, so let’s change the subject. 

I must tell you about my day. I was sniffing about in the forest, as I always do, when a delicious aroma wafted my way. It was rich and buttery, accented with toasted nuts, vanilla, and—if I was not mistaken—just a hint of spice. Maybe nutmeg? Cinnamon? But that was just the dessert menu! I could also smell an entrée. One of my all-time favorites.

Little girl.

I could hardly believe my good fortune! I carefully crept upwind—so I wouldn’t miss any of those mouth-watering scents. And, before you ask, my mouth did water—the fur around my muzzle was soaking wet. Not foaming-at-the mouth wet, mind you, but wet enough to arouse suspicion in anyone so inclined. I judiciously wiped my muzzle with both paws, and stepped into the path before her.

She was startled, at first—but when I spoke to her, she relaxed. It’s not often that one encounters a suave and congenial forest creature. I could see that she found me almost as charming as I find myself. She told me that she was on her way to visit her Gammy, who wasn’t feeling well. She felt her grandmother could use some cheering up. I complimented her on her kind concern for the old woman—all while thinking the little girl would make a tasty snack.

“You know…” I suggested, “I’ll bet your grandmother would love a bunch of forget-me-nots. I saw a patch of them blooming not far from here.” Seeing how appropriate my recommendation was, she smiled, thanked me, and left to gather the flowers.

Humans are always going on and on about how clever foxes are. You would think that no other members of the dog family had any smarts. C’mon people—we’re not all like your stupid inbred purse puppies. I planned ahead, to maximize my rewards. Rather than eating the little girl (and the fragrant cake in her basket) right away, I figured I could eat her grandmother first—and have the rest for dessert!

As soon as she turned the corner of the path, I took off the other way. I boundied through the woods, making a beeline to her grandmother’s cottage. Once there, I paused at the edge of the clearing to catch my breath. I crept up to the door, low, so I wouldn’t be seen from the ivy-covered cottage’s little windows. I knocked lightly on the front door.

No response.

I knocked again, a little harder.

No Response.

I pounded loudly.

“Who’s there?” came a cracked voice from deep inside the tiny house.

Using my best falsetto, I answered, “It’s me, Gammy—Little Red Riding Hood. I’ve come to visit you.”

“Who?”

I repeated my lie—louder, this time, which was difficult because I was afraid my falsetto would break under the strain. It didn’t. A little old lady, dressed in a flowered nightshirt and matching cap, opened the door. Before she had a chance to see that I was not her favorite grandchild, and slam the door, I burst through, knocking over some furniture and knickknacks in the process. 

I ripped off her clothes and gobbled her up. 

She was okay—a bit dry and stringy for my taste, but I was hungry enough not to mind.

Next, I had to prepare for the next part of the day’s menu plan. I straightened up the room, sweeping a couple of broken Hummel figurines into the fireplace ashes. I put on the nightshirt and cap, drew the blinds so the room would be dark, and climbed into the bed. I was still warm. Nice.

I was dozing comfortably when I heard a faint knocking sound.

I didn’t respond.

The knocking came again, a little louder.

I didn’t respond.

The knocking came again, much louder this time.

“Who’s there?” I asked, using my best—slightly cracked—falsetto voice.

From behind the old oaken door came the reply, “It’s me, Gammy—Little Red Riding Hood. I’ve come to visit you.”

“The door’s open, dear—come on in.”

From under the covers, I could see her silhouette in the doorway. She couldn’t see me, at first, but her eyes gradually adjusted to the cottage’s dim light. She then began making comments about my distinctly ungrandmotherlike appearance. I managed, in my sweetest falsetto, to allay her fears. At least I was able to do so up to the point where she said, “My what big teeth you have, Grammy!” That was getting too close to home.

 I leapt from under the faded quilt and wolfed her down (you see what I did there?). She was, exactly as anticipated, tender sweet, and delicious. I put a pot of water on the stove for tea. When it was ready, I enjoyed a leisurely dessert, savoring every last crumb of the cake from the girl’s basket. My belly filled, and my mind well-pleased by the day’s successes, I decided to take a nap in grannie’s feather bed.

I was just drifting off to dreamland—where fat juicy sheep bounded, one after another, into my waiting jaws—when I was roused by a loud banging at the door. Noiselessly creeping to the window, I peered through a gap in the still-drawn curtains. Outside, to my utter dismay, a large, muscular woodsman stood, poised to break down the door. In one clenched fist he held a large, scary, and very sharp, axe.

The rest of the story is too painful to retell.

 

Food Sites for September 2020

Thursday, August 13, 2020


July’s blueberries, popped in the freezer, ready to drop into a late summer cocktail.


If you were injudicious enough to overdo the planting of zucchini—last Spring—you’re probably overwhelmed and exhausted now that Summer’s days of reckoning have arrived. It’s no easy thing, trying to find ways to sneak giant green submarine-shaped vegetables onto the porches of unsuspecting friends and neighbors each night. Have you noticed that nobody has ever crept, under cover of darkness, to abandon surreptitious baskets of berries at anyone’s front door?

Penwipe Publishing is still on staycation, but it hasn’t stopped our incessant scribbling. Our blog has posted two new short stories this month; one is part of a book-length collection, and the other has no connection with anything else. 

Yet.

Disclaimer: These stories have little more than a trivial connection to food. ”You Don’t Know Beans” might be the foodier of the two, but don’t expect to raise an appetite while reading it—and “The Whale in the Room” has much more to do with punctuation than what might populate one’s plate.

We’re also including an especially apt podcast, below, to entertain you during the on-going pandemic.

You can, if you wish, follow us on Facebook (where, among other things, we post a LOT of photographs), and Twitter. Still more of our online scribbles can be found at A Quiet Little Table in the Corner. There’s even an Amazon author’s page, mostly about our food writing.

“It’s summatime, summatime, summ, summ, summatime,” at On the Table’s culinary quote collection:
Summer cooking implies a sense of immediacy, a capacity to capture the fleeting moment. Elizabeth David

No dish changes quite so much from season to season as soup. Summer’s soups come chilled, in pastel colors strewn with herbs. Florence Fabricant
Gary
September, 2020

PS: If you encounter broken links, changed URLs—or know of wonderful sites we’ve missed—please drop us a line. It helps to keep this resource as useful as possible for all of us. To those who have pointed out corrections or tasty sites (this month we’re tipping our hat to Dianne Jacob), thanks, and keep them coming!

PPS: If you wish to change the e-mail address at which you receive these newsletters, or otherwise modify the way you receive our postings or—if you’ve received this newsletter by mistake, and/or don’t wish to receive future issues—you have our sincere apology and can have your e-mail address deleted from the list immediately. We’re happy (and continuously amazed) that so few people have decided to leave the list but, should you choose to be one of them, let us know and we’ll see that your in-box is never afflicted by these updates again. You’ll find links at the bottom of this page to fix everything to your liking.


— the new sites —

(Liana Aghajanian’s project to document the foods of Armenia through articles and recipes)

(Yasmin Zaher’s extensive article in Israel’s Haaretz Newspaper)

(Kristina Razon explains all for Serious Eats)

(Mari Uyehara [dis]solves the culinary Rubik’s cube for Serious Eats)

(M.M. Pack’s article on restaurant organization in The Austin Chronicle)

(Rachel Lauden’s post about Barbara Wheaton and The Sifter—an online resource of over 5000 cookbooks)

(complete text of I.B.Tauris’ 2013 book; as a PDF)

(articles on the culture of Morocco—and lots of recipes)

(Christine Clark explains affinage, at VinePair)

(there’s nothing mock about Jaap Harskamp’s article in New York Almanack)


— inspirational (or otherwise useful) sites for writers/bloggers —
















— podcast —



— changed URL —



— that’s all for now —

Except, of course, for the usual legalistic mumbo-jumbo and commercial flim-flam:

As an Amazon Associate, this newsletter earns from qualifying purchases made through it. These include my own books (listed below), and occasional books mentioned in the entries above. If you order any books via those links, the price you pay is not increased by my commission. 

Occasionally, URLs we provide may link to commercial sites (that is, they’ll cost you money to take full advantage of them). We do not receive any compensation for listing them here, and provide them without any form of recommendation—other than the fact that they looked interesting to us.

Your privacy is important to us. We will not give, sell or share your e-mail address with anyone, for any purpose—ever. Nonetheless, we will expose you to the following irredeemably brazen plugs for our books:

The Resource Guide for Food Writers
(Hardcover)
(Paper)
(Kindle)
(newsletters like this merely update the contents of the book; what doesn’t appear here is already in the book)

The Herbalist in the Kitchen
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)

The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food And Drink Industries
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)

Human Cuisine
(Paper)
(Kindle)

Herbs: A Global History
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)

Sausage: A Global History
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)

Can It! The Perils and Pleasures of Preserving Foods
(Hardcover)
(Kindle)

Sauces Reconsidered: Après Escoffier

Terms of Vegery
(Kindle)

How to Serve Man:
On Cannibalism, Sex, Sacrifice, & the Nature of Eating
(Kindle)

How to Write a Great Book
(Kindle)

The Digressions of Dr Sanscravat: Gastronomical Ramblings & Other Diversions
(Kindle)

Ephemera: a short collection of short stories
(Kindle)

Prophet Amidst Losses
(Kindle)

Cenotaphs
(Kindle)

Future Tense: Remembrance of Things Not Yet Past
(Kindle)

Here endeth the sales pitch(es)...

...for the moment, anyway.

______________

The Resource Guide for Food Writers, Update #239 is protected by copyright, and is provided at no cost, for your personal use only. It may not be copied or retransmitted unless this notice remains affixed. Any other form of republication—unless with the author’s prior written permission—is strictly prohibited.

Copyright ©2020 by Gary Allen.

Another Summer/Pandemic Diversion

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


The Whale in the Room

Most homes proudly display objects that their families use to signal something about themselves. It might be an old photo of ancestors they can’t quite remember—or, perhaps, even identify. Maybe a cookie jar from a distant childhood. A grandfather’s pipe, a grandmother’s rolling pin. A flag that supports the search for Vietnam-era MIAs and POWs. A souvenir carved coconut from a tropical honeymoon. A ticket from 1969’s Woodstock Festival of Music and Art. Bronzed baby shoes once worn by someone who is now a grandparent, several times over.
People keep these things—despite the admonitions of clutter-hating evangelists of home decorating—because they mean something, even if they’re not exactly sure what. Sometimes they’re kept because the objects spur them to think about the meaning of their lives. The objects also initiate conversations, especially with people who have never visited the home before. The objects are even preserved and displayed for no reason that anyone can remember.
Still, they are kept.
My house doesn’t have any of those things. Well—that’s not exactly true. I do have one thing. I don’t remember when I got it. I can’t even recall when I had it professionally framed—but I did. I pass by it every day and—all too often—it makes me stop and wonder.
The frame contains a receipt, the kind you used to get in diners and luncheonettes. They usually wound up impaled on a spike by the cash register, but somehow this one survived. At the top, in deep indigo ink, is printed “Guest Check.” Most of that line is missing on ours; it must have been torn, in haste, from some waitress’s order pad. Below the title, on a field of pale blue-green, are delicate lines for ordered dishes. The slip’s edges are slightly yellowed. I recall that this one has written, in the careful script that no one uses anymore, “BLT, W/W T, Mayo—$.75”. On the next line down, “Pepsi—$.10”. There’s no date on the slip but, with those prices, it is obvious that it was written a long time ago. You can’t see any of that, now, because the slip is framed to exhibit the back side only.
Today, peering out from its archival matted frame, you can just make out three words, written with a fountain pen, in faded peacock blue ink. There is nothing else. The inscription that has so captured my attention for all these decades is deceptively simple: “Call me. Ishmael”.
Of course, I know the source of the words, but something about them doesn’t quite compute. Why would someone write the opening line of Moby Dick on a luncheonette check? And why alter the quote with a punctuation mark? I might be way off-base—maybe the text has nothing to do with the book at all. But, if it’s not Melville’s Ishmael, who is—or was—my Ishmael?
I once knew someone, in college, over half a century ago, who had a dog named Ishmael—but I doubt that a long-dead dog has anything to do with this. The faded ink of the inscription could date from that time period, but the whole thing is just too unlikely to waste time on. 
Sorry for the distraction.
Looking carefully at the faded message, it’s hard to tell if its only punctuation is a period or a comma. That raises other questions.
If it’s a period, the message was probably written by Ishmael himself. It’s an instruction, possibly even an order, to some unidentified recipient. What was so important that the note was necessary? And for whom was it meant? Was the waitress—or the cashier—supposed to get in touch with Ishmael? While the message is quite curt, there’s no exclamation point to suggest any urgency. Perhaps the message was supposed to be a romantic invitation—although, if so, it lacks very much in the way of poetry, or even sentiment. I can’t imagine our imaginary waitress (or cashier) being too strongly moved by it. 
Unless they were already romantically-involved, and the note is a couple’s shorthand that both would understand.
The absence of even a hint of a time or date for the recipient’s response is, like everything else in the document, maddeningly vague.
On the other hand, what if that lone punctuation mark was not a period. If it was a comma, then the message was addressed to our Ishmael. All the same questions we’ve asked, so far, could just as easily be applied in that situation—but in the other direction. If so, the very existence of the guest check actually begins to make sense. Only the recipient would have been a position to have kept it. That he did suggests that it had some special meaning for him. Perhaps he made that call. Perhaps it led to something momentous in his life, something he wanted to relive in memory, again and again, forever. On the other hand, perhaps it led to the greatest disappointment of his life. Perhaps it was an emotional scab he could pick at, compulsively; or an old war wound he could rub, whenever it ached with a change in the weather.
There is yet another question. Why did neither Ishmael nor his correspondent continue to keep the guest check? At some point, it found its way into my house—so, whether by accident or conscious decision, it left their possession. Did joy fade with time, or pain relent?
Despite spending so many years on it, I have gotten no closer to solving the mystery of the annotated guest check. It’s almost a Zen koan—an inscrutable phrase that provokes (and unprovokes) understanding. It tugs at me, every time I walk by it, as cool and mute as a gravestone. All that I know, for certain, is that I feel strangely (and endlessly) moved by the happiness (or unhappiness) of Ishmael and his correspondent—whoever they were.
They call me.


______________

The Whale in the Room is protected by copyright, and is provided for your personal use only. It may not be copied or retransmitted unless this notice remains affixed. Any other form of republication—unless with the author’s prior written permission—is strictly prohibited.



Copyright ©2020 by Gary Allen.

A Fable

Sunday, July 19, 2020

You Don’t Know Beans

My little Jackie is one sweet little kid; a sweet little idiot. The boy is all good intentions and no brains. 
He knew we was hungry, so he planted a garden. We also tried to raise chickens and rabbits. He loved them so much, he let ’em “play” in the yard—where they all got eaten by foxes. But, afore that happened, they ate up all the seedlings in his garden. Of course, he was never gonna’ get around to weedin’or waterin’ it, so it’s not like we were ever going to get anything to eat from it, anyhow. The boy means well, but he’s as dumb as a brick.
No, that’s not fair—to bricks.
The only thing that kept us going was Emily, our beloved milk cow. She gave us butter and cheese, and—since she was what-you-call a “cash cow”—we traded her extra milk for stuff like flour and sugar. I used to like to bake cakes and cookies for Jackie. Or did, until we didn’t have no egg-laying hens. 
Damn foxes. 
And then Emily’s milk dried up. We had no bull to freshen her, so all she did was keep the weeds down around our little cabin at the edge of the forest. Weeds that I could have used to make soup. 
Stupid cow.
I’m too old and weak to work for anyone else, nowadays, and Jackie—well who would ever hire someone like him? There was nothing left for us to do but sell Emily. Thinking back on it now, I ‘spose I shoulda’ been the one to take that cow to market. Maybe I thought that a cute little kid might get a better price than I coulda’. 
You think you can guess how that turned out, doncha’?
Well, maybe you can—an’ maybe you can’t—but I betcha’ you don’t know the whole story.
Lemme tell ya’ ‘bout the morning the two of ‘em walked into town together. I made a necklace of daisies for her to wear— to dress her up a bit, y’know—and put our last crust of bread and a sliver of cheese in Jackie’s pocket. I told him how important it was, that he had to get a good price for her. “Maybe we could get some more chickens,” I said, “maybe even enough to go into the egg business.” If nothing else, we could live on scrambled eggs and the few wild onions that Emily hadn’t eaten. He nodded like he knew what I was talkin’ about.
I know, now, that it was foolish, but I believed him. 
I swear, sometimes I think that he’s not the family idiot. I am.
Anyway, off they went.
That evening, I spotted him away off, skipping up the path in the dim twilight— alone. He was swinging a little pouch, and he had that big goofy grin on his face. Excited, I called out to ask if his pouch was full of gold coins. 
“Even better!” he shouted back. 
That’s when I began to worry. Turns out, I had good reason to. The pouch did not hold gold coins. It did not hold silver coins. It did not hold copper coins.
It held beans.
Five beans.
Not even enough to make soup.
My first instinct was to beat the boy senseless, but it was far too late for that. The child was born with no kind of sense. Maybe he had just enough sense to see that he was in big trouble, because he started right in telling me that they weren’t just any old beans.
He said they were magic beans. He’d traded them, for daisy-wearing Emily, with some old tramp he’d met along the path to town. He said that the tramp had promised that the beans would grow so tall that they’d lead to a place in the sky—where he’d find bags of goId, a hen that laid eggs if solid gold, and a harp made of gold that would sing anything you asked it to. I’d never heard such nonsense in my whole life! 
Besides, if I’ve told him once, I’ve told him a million times, that he should never talk to no strangers. But the boy just can’t help himself—he can git along with anybody.
Like I told ya’, he’s a sweet kid with no smarts whatsoever.
I took the pouch and sent him up to bed with no supper. I weren’t trying to punish him—neither of us had any supper, ‘cause there weren’t none to be had. In disgust and disappointment, I tossed the beans out the window, where they landed in Jackie’s “garden.” 
I just plopped down to the table with my head in my hands, wondering what in hell to do next. I fell asleep there, a fitful kinda’ sleep with nightmares fulla’ thunder and earthquakes. 
I usually wake up early, when the sun first come in through the window, but the next morning I woke in the dark. Jackie was shaking me. He tried, at first, to drag me to the window, then out the front door. Looking around the corner, to where his garden shoulda’ been, all we could see was an immense bean vine. Five thick stalks twisted around each other. They clung to the side of our little house, then spiraled up into the clouds.
‘Afore I could stop him, Jackie begin shimmyin’ up them giant plants. Up and up he went, ignoring me when I screamed for him to, “come down this minute, young man!” Don’t know whether he heard me or not, but he soon disappeared into the clouds. 
I was beside myself with fear. I ran, back and forth around them damn vines, looking up, pullin’ my hair, and cryin’ out for my baby. 
I heard a distant rustling sound, way up high, then something tumblin’ down through the big leaves. “My god,” I thought, “he’s falling!” What would I ever do to stay alive—in my old age—if I lost my Jackie?
The sound got louder, swellin’ into a kinda’ whooshin’, ‘afore endin’ in a horrible crash. I couldn’t bear to look, at first, but then thought there might be something I could do to save the boy. I opened my eyes and turned to the cabin. The roof was all caved in an’ dust was swirlin’ around so’s I could barely see. 
“My god! My boy! My house!” Only when some of the dust settled, could I see what happened.
Poking out of what was left of my poor roof, the torn stem of a huge green-bean pod. That damn vegetable done ripped through the thatchin’, an’ the rafters, an’ Jackie’s upstairs bedroom—only comin’ to a stop when it reached the kitchen table. Somehow, my boy must have broken it off when he was aclimbin’ through them giant vines. 
When he climbed down, a while later, he just stared at our wrecked house. He told me he was disappointed because the old tramp had lied to him, exaggeratin’ the beans’ magic. He said he’d walked all around, lookin’ everwhere, but never saw him no giants, no gold, or nothin’. 
Just clouds. 
I was bawlin’ my eyes out—from grief an’ relief—but he tried his damnedest to comfort me. He told me that we had nothing to worry about.
For once in his life, the boy was right about somethin’. His sweet good nature, an’ all that pointless jabberin’ he’d done over the years, made him the darlin’ of all of our neighbors. When they learnt of our misfortune, they all come a-runnin’. Dozens of ‘em showed up with tools and such, everthing they’d need to fix our caved-in roof. 
Not only that, they built us a small barn, and a real—fox-proof—chicken coop. They even left us some livestock—a young heifer, and some chickens and ducks—to get us restarted. 
So far, none of them hens has laid a golden egg. Not a one.
You know how—when folks pitch in, like that—they expects to be fed, right? By a stroke a’ luck, I was able to be their good neighbor, too. While Jackie told ‘em all stories about the things he seen—and didn’t see—up in the sky, I served everyone from platters heaped high with thick slabs that I hacked from a Boston Baked Bean.


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You Don't Kmow Beansone of the stories in a new book of collected, and re-imagined, fables—is protected by copyright, and is provided for your personal use only. It may not be copied or retransmitted unless this notice remains affixed. Any other form of republication—unless with the author’s prior written permission—is strictly prohibited.


Copyright ©2020 by Gary Allen.


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