Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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In Praise of Beans on Toast

 Are you making beans on toast wrong ...


I always make baked beans for Beltane.

There are reasons and reasons. Beltane is often our first outdoor feast of the year, and baked beans are quintessential picnic food. Beltane is also a busy time and, benefiting from long, slow baking as they do, you can make them well before festivities get underway. They're cheap, nourishing, and good food. Everybody likes them. They likewise guarantee (as I make them, anyway) at least one vegetarian entree on the Beltane board.

Another seasonal connection: a friend once suggested, only half-humorously, that with the advent of Outdoor season, breaking wind becomes somewhat less socially problematic.

(The secret of good baked beans? Easily told: be generous with the sugar. For years, health-conscious kind of guy that I am, I skimped on the sugar, and my beans suffered as a result. To be everything that they should be, baked beans need plenty of sweet, paired with a nice, healthy dollop of cider vinegar.)

Baked beans were always one of my father's favorite foods. Not long before he died, I finally thought to ask him why.

My father grew up hungry: in a large family, during the Depression. “When you had baked beans for supper,” he told me, “the pot would go around the table and, by the time it got back to you, there were still enough left that you could have more.

Indeed. Even after a hungry coven has eaten its fill—witching is hard work—there are always enough baked beans left over for one of my very favorite breakfasts, beans on toast, next morning.

Beans on toast is part of the classic British full breakfast. This is not, I gather, a tradition of long-standing—dating, as it does, to the era of rationed food after World War II—but oh, it's good.

My friend Zoa and I once traveled to Malta to visit the megalithic temples there. I can truly say that Maltese food was some of the worst that I have ever eaten: bad Italian and bad British, mostly. No whole grains, no fresh fruit, no fresh vegetables. (Hopefully, in the intervening years, things have changed for the better.) For days, we lived basically on bad pizza and pasta with insipid red sauce. (Spaghetti sauce, on the other hand, does not benefit from generous sugaring.) After a week, we were both hopelessly constipated.

Then one morning, there on the breakfast menu, salvation: beans on toast. We were both so excited at the prospect that the waitress thought we were making fun of her.

Praise be to Mother Bean. Together with her partner, Father Grain, she maketh complete our protein: Complementarity writ large.

All hail the Neolithic Revolution: 12,000 years of beans and grain. Eaters of the world, unite!

It's Beltane, folks. Break wind at will.



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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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