Friday, January 7, 2011

oh, THAT Epiphany!

I generally check Google Reader first thing in the morning, so it always includes many items posted the previous day. Being one day late with most of the news is not so bad, but I was sorry to have missed out on National Bean Day, January 6. This annual observance was written up in the L.A. Weekly and the Huffington Post, among numerous other media, but none of my sources mentioned the happy coincidence that Bean Day falls on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, aka the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the three Wise Men's arrival in Bethlehem and their presentation of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child.

January 6 has been a day of revelry and foolery for centuries, and the write-ups of National Bean Day certainly have their silly side. My scholarly inclination is to check out Shakespeare's Twelfth Night for legume imagery. Malvolio in the dungeon being fed nothing but beans? Wikipedia doesn't go into that much detail, but it does tell me about the bean reference in Robert Herrick's poem Twelfe-Night, or King and Queene (published 1648). Herrick is easy to find at the astonishing readbooksonline, and bean and pea come up in the first stanza:

     Now, now the mirth comes
     With the cake full of plums,
     Where bean's the king of the sport here;
     Beside, we must know
     The pea also
     Must revel as queen in the court here.

I will not claim that Bean Day originated with Herrick. The Huffington Post thinks it might commemorate the death of ur-geneticist Gregor Mendel (give me a break!), and I'd love to take them on. Maybe next year I'll write the definitive Bean Day study and launch it a few days in advance of January 6.

In a sense, every day is Bean Day for me, as I'm always watching the garden. Hyacinth beans and scarlet runner beans are undergoing their 'fring'* resurrection -- new leaves but no blossoms yet. Yesterday I harvested the hyacinth bean seeds I'd been allowing to dry on the vine, and in retrospect this seems a very fitting celebration. Really a pea, not a bean, the purple-flowered legume will be my garden queen -- with the scarlet runner as her rampant consort.

For our belated Bean Day celebration. A pot of ham hocks and lima beans would be more than welcome, but it takes me two days to make it, given my fussy way of dealing with broth. Four-bean soup seems well within the realm of possibility.

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* 'Fring' is my word for the spring-like season that begins with SoCal's fall rains. See second spring? and fring weeds.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License