(Host) Sixty-nine years ago the Brownsville Grange began serving weekly baked bean suppers in the summertime. Today, the local grange is no more, but the bean suppers continue as a benefit to the historical society and a parent-teacher group.
This year – with just one more supper to go – Steve Zind takes us there in this report from the VPR archives.
(Zind) The main course consists of one thing: beans. Kidney, yellow eyed beans and pea beans. Potato salad and coleslaw are served on the side, along with sweet breads and sour pickles. There are lots of pies for dessert. All the food at the Brownsville Baked Bean Supper is homemade by local volunteers. Mary Bell is one of the organizers.
(Bell) “We have people that are here at 2:30 in the afternoon, when tickets go on sale at 4:30 in the afternoon. And they come back year after year. But we have noticed a change, because some of our most avid bean eaters are no longer with us.”
(Zind) So far, the fallen bean eaters haven’t hurt attendance. New recruits keep arriving. Organizer Ruth Moore says the event has also weathered a recent vegetarian uprising.
(Moore) “Salt pork has been a big controversy. This year, we’re cutting down on the salt pork. So some of the beans will have salt pork and some will not.”
(Zind) Despite that adjustment, much of the Brownsville Baked Bean Supper is unchanged. The same three baked bean recipes have been used season after season. The experienced bean eaters come early, with one thing in mind.
(Weathersfield couple) “My stomach. And they leave the snappers in the beans. You know when you eat your beans, that you have an after effect.”
“The food is wonderful. If you like baked beans, you can’t beat it.”
(Zind) About a dozen children from the local elementary school work during the supper. It’s their job to keep the bowls of beans filled, serve pie and clear tables. The children are coached on being polite to the customers and trained in bean identification.
(Group) “Which ones are the red ones?” “Kidney!”
(Zind) Cathy Connelly began volunteering for the baked bean suppers when she was a child.
(Connelly) “My grandmother baked beans, my mother was the hostess. And I grew up waiting tables and now I have kids in school and I’m part of the historical society, it’s just a natural progression. “
(Zind) The diners come from all over.
“My husband and I who are both chefs love this, it’s one of our all time favorite summer things to do. Baked beans are one of the oldest and best dishes in the universe!”
(Zind) By the time tickets go on sale, the small room at the front of the Grange hall is crowded and a line trails out in front of the building.
“How many? Yea, just one, Bill. One? Six dollars. Yea. And Bill, I’m so sorry about your Dad. That’s all right, thank you. He was a nice man. Yea. Terrific guy. We had a fantastic service and crowd up there this morning, really nice.”
(Zind) One visiting Pennsylvania couple had never even heard of a baked bean supper. But they were pleased they’d come.
“I had no idea what to expect. It was very nice, very delightful. Everything was very tasty and everyone’s friendly!”
(Zind)The baked bean suppers continue each Saturday through July at the Brownsville Grange. For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Brownsville.
(Host)Saturday is the last supper for this season. It starts at 5 o’clock.