Baked beans are disgusting.
I think the flavor profile is acceptable and the smell is nice. But I attended one too many barbecues as a kid in which a big old aluminum tray of baked beans sat out in the sun, gathering weird liquid at the bottom, developing a matte finish in the hot Ohio sun, turning from alleged food to mush before my very eyes. When I see food remnants caught in the kitchen drain now, as a baggage-free totally undamaged adult, and I see those soggy chunks of dinner that can only be tackled with a paper towel, I think, “Man, this reminds me of baked beans in its inherent grossness.” Don’t get me started on adding hot dogs to baked beans. The number of child lunatics I encountered with baked bean juice crusted to their lips, dirt under their nails, a demonic craze in their eyes, and exclaiming “Beanie Weinies! More Beanie Weinies!” was just enough to make me sick.
When I was in high school I had a huge crush on a guy whose feelings towards me could best be described as the action of patting someone on the head. His graduation party happened to be the same night that I had to work (at an ice creamery), which was not unusual in those days. I rolled into a lot of graduation parties with ice cream kneaded into my arm hair, my fudgey hand prints outlined on my back pockets. I hugged a lot of moms with my Superman blue-pink-yellow arms just inches from their Eddie Bauer pullovers. The same can be said of this particular night. There’s only so much you can do when you’re already running late and a bag of hot dairy trash tipped over on you while putting it in the dumpster.
So I rolled in late and all my friends were already drinking around a bonfire, and they greeted me with like a half-hearted “meh.” You know why? Because I was a COOL GIRL and I demanded literally nothing of any of my male friends and it has taken me years and years to understand that I should have been demanding a lot more the whole time. Anyway. I went inside to say hello to the parents, because that’s what you do when you’re in high school and you want adults to think that you, too, are an adult. The crush in question was still outside; I wasn’t even sure if he saw me come in. (Again, I asked for nothing of anyone.) But when I greeted his mom, she apologized for having put all the food away already. She stopped and said, “You know what? I know exactly what I can warm up for you. They’re kind of my specialty.” That’s when she pulled a gallon of baked beans out of the fridge and spooned them out onto a styrofoam plate.
My mouth filled with saliva, the kind the kind your body makes in preparation of barfing. I had to look away. I had to breathe through my mouth. I couldn’t be near it, and yet, I also had to eat it. I had to eat it with a god damn smile on my face and make yummy noises. No you didn’t!!! you are saying. Well, yes I did. When you’re standing in a very nice house, and you’re hyper-aware of strongly you smell like sprinkles and soiled milk, and you just want people to finally figure out how great you are, you gratefully accept a plate of food that gives you nightmares.
I ate every last bean outside in the dark and dreamt about going to college.