Thursday, May 20, 2010

How about them beans!

On Tuesday, we had a bit of a family reunion. One of my aunts, who lives in Arkansas and whom I've only met a few times, came out west to visit, and my other aunt and one cousin drove her (and her husband) down to the Portland area so she could see my sisters and I.

It was a very nice evening. We all had some good chats and good food, but the surprise treat of the evening was the distribution of a few family heirlooms. I had the good fortune to receive a pitcher, just like the one in the picture above. Mine also came with a lid, which is flat and yellow and sits quite nicely on the ceramic rim of the container.

Most people would probably use this gizmo as pitcher for pancake batter, but my intrepid great-grandmother used this as her bean-soaking vessel. I wonder how many batches of beans began in this little crock. I wonder how many more will be made. It seems like a small container for a big farm family, but for my crew, this would make the perfect batch.

This ovenware dish will never be worth a lot of money. It's not a fancy or particularly unusual piece of pottery. But it is probably close to sixty years old. And it has seen so much! My great-grandmother was a farm-wife in Aroostook County, Maine. My aunt Nancy took the crock with her to Arkansas at some point after my great-grandmother died. And now it's been passed on to me, here in Oregon. From potato farm to suburbia to the city of Portland; from World War II to 2010--if that pitcher could talk, it would have quite the stories for us.

And they would all be centered around the humble, economical, filling and delicious bean.

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