For the later half of my first grade year in school my family moved from Norfolk, Virginia to Orangeburg, South Carolina. I attended a smallish school where the lunch ladies were as familiar as a next door neighbor. I remember their busy chatter as my classmates and I would file quietly through the cafeteria line. Southern children in the lunch room had to be well mannered and talk softly. The lunch ladies made enough noise for everyone, though.
The food that they made was quite good; very Southern, very homesy kind of food. One day as my classmates and I were passing through the lunch line I heard one of the lunch ladies on the serving line call out to one of the cooks, “I need more green beans out here; and save that bean liquor. We gonna put it in the soup tomorrow.”
My little first grade heart froze. Liquor? The lunch ladies put liquor in the beans! I couldn’t have anything with liquor in it!
I remember being very nervous as I sat down to eat my lunch. I stared at those green beans as if they were going to jump off of my plate and force their way into my mouth. I had visions of the whole first grade walking around drunk from eating the liquor laden green beans. What was I going to do? How was I possibly going to save the first grade?
The only thing that came to mind was to tell the people sitting nearest me not to eat the green beans because they had liquor in them. The other kids were as shocked as I was. In the classic style of the ‘telephone’ game, the word spread down the long rows of tables, “Don’t eat the green beans. They have liquor in them. Pass it on.”
Feeling that I had at least saved most of the kids, I set to eating the rest of my lunch, being careful to avoid the tainted green beans. Then suddenly in the middle of my contentment one of the teachers stood up and yelled in fury, “You kids listen to me right now! Someone has spread a rumor that the green beans have liquor in them! THESE GREEN BEANS DO NOT HAVE LIQUOR IN THEM!!!!!! NOW I WANT EVERYONE OF YA’LL TO SHUT UP ABOUT IT AND EAT YOUR BEANS!!!!!!!!!!”
Man, I’m telling you that was one furious teacher. It was the South in the early 60’s and teachers had loads of power. So, teachers could say things like shut-up and eat your beans and it was pretty much as good as the 11th commandment. I slunk low in my seat as the kids around me stared at me. I prayed that no one would tell the teacher that it was me who had gotten the ball rolling on that liquor-in-the-beans thing.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned that the cooking liquid from vegetables such as green beans was often referred to as ‘liquor’, at least in the South of my childhood. Oh goodness.
Well, the green bean recipe that I have for you today doesn’t have any juice and definitely doesn’t have any liquor–of any kind. However, it does have some simple flavors that make these beans a great side for many different types of main dishes.