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Pass the beans

01/27/2014
Mark is a member of the clean plate club at the Mount Desert Island Historical Society Bean Feed Jan. 23. (Photo by Jennifer Moore)

Mark is a member of the clean plate club at the Mount Desert Island Historical Society Bean Feed Jan. 23. (Photo by Jennifer Moore)

Two dozen simmering crock pots filled the high school cafeteria with that sweet, mellow smell of an old-time, home-cooked dinner.

Using a banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and a wooden stand up bass, The Dog Mountain Band rambled through a blur of rambling bluegrass tunes.

Dozens of silver-haired seniors hunched over paper plates and chatted about the frigid temperatures outside, their coats piled on nearby empty table.

Jen and I attended our first Maine bean feed Jan.23. The event was a fundraiser for the Mount Desert (“deh-zer) Island Historical Society and held in the Mount Desert Island High School cafeteria. Well over 100 people spent $10 apiece to gorge themselves on nothing but baked beans for dinner.

It was wonderful.

There were brown beans with pork, chocolate-colored baked beans, beans with chunks of meat, beans with stings of meat, smoked-beans, light-colored beans and a lot of beans called “Jacob’s Cattle Beans.” One pot of beans featured a note that proclaimed it was cooked using a 1959 recipe.Beans really tasted good in 1959.

Jen and I sat across from a local couple.

The woman wore a colorful sweater. The man never took off his jacket, a jacket that had some kind of Navy destroyer embroidered over his heart. The woman said they lived in Sommesville. “If it wasn’t so cold you could have walked,” I said.

They laughed.

Yes, they were locals. The woman said her husband was born in Bar Harbor, now a bustling Acadia National Park tourist town and the biggest city on Mount Desert Island. His father was born there too … probably around the time the Rockefellers still roamed the island.

“Where are you from?” I asked the woman.

“Connecticut,” she said. “I’m from away.”

“I’m from away too,” I said. “Minnesota.”

“Oh, you know what the cold is like then don’t you?” she said.

Yup, and I sort of know what a Maine bean feed is like. A Maine bean feed is like a fish fry without the grease or potluck dinner without the cheese-slicked casserole pans. It’s little window into a community. There’s camaraderie, good cheer and bad chairs. There’s a line that moves fast, kids that move faster and someone cracking wise on the microphone. It’s a taste of the neighborhood.

The event wound down, the band stopped playing and organizers picked a favorite dish. The Historical Society president then made a speech. The speech focused on the chemistry of unseen human gastronomical events and the atmospheric benefits of beans.

I’m writing this 24 hours later and I’m still processing his words.

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One Comment
  1. A Bean Feed??

    The Minnesota Polar Plunge involves jumping in to a freezing lake in the dead of winter to raise money for the Special Olympics.

    The Krispy Kreme Donut Challenge involves running 2.5 miles through the streets of Raleigh, NC, stopping to eat 12 donuts, and then running back to the starting line (another 2.5 miles). This charitable event was created to raise funds for the area’s Children’s Hospital.

    And, now there’s a Bean Feed to raise money for the local Historical Society!!…

    Is there no limit to the amount of abuse people will heap upon themselves in the name of charity?

    Good for you guys! I commend you on your courage, generosity and willingness to spend at least one night in separate rooms. I hope the entire event was an unqualified success.

    Luckily, it sounds like activities and participants (if not the menu) combined for an enjoyable event.

    If they ever have a charitable golf outing, or a silent auction, let me know.

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