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, BBQ favourite or the true way of enjoying baked beans any time of day or night, 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. I roar laughing at all those dieters when they say “I 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 &’90s. The true luxury was probably lost on us. It was just something warm and filling that had sauce. Baked beans were just part of the family shopping list. Not extravagant or foreign. 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! 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. The whole swirling on a spoon while holding a fork and sucking for Ireland was an adventure in dining. Ahhh! the joys of the 80s will never be lost.
Recently I had my kitchen to myself and could have cooked anything for lunch. But I got a craving for baked beans. I wanted something comforting. 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. I always have at least 4 tins on backup. So I cooked them up, made the toast, buttered it to the corners (about an inch thick in my case), a large mug of tea at the ready and spooned the beans on. Suddenly it hit me, I was actually mindfully eating these beans. The warm toast, the melted butter, the silky 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. Surely that is the best reason for having it in the pantry over 0 points on your diet sheet?
You can keep your Tagliatelle too, I’m Irish. I was brought up on good wholesome food to warm your belly and fill your soul with joy. (No offence intended to my many Italian friends.) Our momentary flirtation with carbonara has passed and it’s still not a staple in the cupboard like baked beans. Therefore I implore that the next time you make baked beans, give it a bit of ceremony. Take a breath, make the toast, slather it with butter. Have a mug tea and as you spoon those beans onto the toast savouring how the sauce is silky and creamy, clinging to the beans while the butter melts ever so slightly. In that first mouthful you will be filled with textures; the creaminess of the sauce with a hint of sweetness. How the beans have a softness yet a little bite to them against the melted butter and crunch of the toast. A glorious feast for the senses. They don’t need pimping up. They are sweet and good and humble just as they are. All hail the pantry king!