I dare say there isn’t a house in Ireland that has not got at least 1 tin of baked beans in the cupboard. Whether you’re a Bachelors boy or a Heinz fan you’ll have had them at some point. It’s that quick snack, breakfast side order, eaten cold, BBQ favourite or the true way of enjoying baked beans, ON TOAST! Not in a cup on the side with the dry toast on the plate as the two men in this house insist on doing. But sometimes ya just have to raise your eyes to heaven and bite your tongue for the failures of those you love. But I digress and that rant is for another post I’m sure.
This little bean is a powerhouse of goodness and I roar laughing for all those dieters when they say “they can have beans”. It almost sounds like some dieting fad, some new wave thing which totally takes from the luxurious pleasure of baked beans. As we scoffed through them in the 70s ’80s and most of the ’90s the true luxury was probably lost on us. It was just something warm and filling that had sauce. I mean I recall when Carbonara came to Ireland!! Those little Dolmio cartons of Carbonara that you just added to a thing called Tagliatelle. Heavens above we were positively EXOTIC! And many a good Saturday evening was spent with my mum eating said Carbonara having ditched the baked beans for something totally hip and oh so European! We were practically Italian as we battled to get pasta swirls into mouths more accustomed to potatoes and meat. Ahhh! the joys of the 80s will never be lost.
And yet recently I had my kitchen to myself and could have cooked anything for lunch but I got a craving for baked beans. Something comforting and that food you eat that makes you think of home, with a big fire on a cold day. The mouthful of something simple and nourishing which gives your tummy a big hug. So I cooked them up, made the toast, buttered it to the corners, a large mug of tea at the ready and spooned the beans on. And suddenly it hit me, I was actually mindfully eating these beans. The warm toast, the melted butter, the sweet sauce of the beans combining to create such a wonderful symphony of taste and comfort all mixed into one. I was like that rat from the movie Ratatouille, Remy in the scene where he explains to his friend about the combinations of flavours like fireworks. I smiled to myself at how simple a thing can bring such great pleasure. You can keep eating it because it’s quick, it has 0 points, it’s nutritious whatever your usual reason. But next time you make baked beans, give it a bit of ceremony. Take a breath, make the toast, leather it with butter, have a mug of your favourite beverage and as you spoon those beans onto the toast savour how totally satisfying they are gonna be. They don’t need pimping up. They are sweet and good and humble just as they are. All hail the pantry king!