Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On Location: Bean-Hole Baked Bean Supper

It's been a while since I'd attended a baked bean supper, but how could I decline an e-mailed invitation that's entitled, "bean suppah deah on saturday?" (My neighbor, the source of this invite, is from Northeast Harbor, so she can get away with Downeast humor that we citizens of northern Massachusetts southern Maine just cannot pull off).

Anyway, we attended the North Gorham Church of Christ's renowned bean-hole baked bean supper Saturday, and here are a few tips and nuggets of wisdom I'll pass along for those who dare to venture to that neck of the woods in the future:

  1. Unless you want to learn how messy you are, do not wear a fresh white shirt. By the time I stood up from the table, I was wearing red fruit punch, yellow mustard, and a brownish residue that I hope was a misplaced kidney bean.
  2. Speaking of kidney beans, the NGCoC's monthly bean supper consists of the aforementioned kidney beans, as well as pea and yellow-eye beans. And they're homemade and cooked underground in a nearby pit for about twenty-four hours. And did I mention the complementary homemade pies, coleslaw, brown bread, potato salad, and the unmistakable snap of a red hot dog?
  3. Don't spill hot coffee on your neighbor. It's often awkward enough to break bread at the elbows of so many strangers even without dumping smoldering java on their laps. Besides, the coffee pots don't advertise a warning for their containment of hot contents, so you're exposing the church--which uses these suppers as a fundraiser to pay the bills--to litigation.
  4. It's a lot more rewarding if you indulge in this Yankee tradition while displaying Yankee frugality. I recommend you pay for the $7 ticket ($3 for children) with pre-supper trips to Martini Lane and/or Hannaford with bulging bags of cans and bottles. There's just something rich about the parallelism in both actions.
  5. William Lombard, Sr. and my great-grandfather John Nason Labrecque, Sr. began the tradition of NGCoC bean-hole baked bean suppers in the mid-1970s. Not necessarily a show-stopping tidbit, but I'm still glowing with familial pride from this newly discovered fact, so you'll have to forgive the nepotism. Anyway, according to family lore, the two men began hosting sporadic bean-hole suppers after indulging in a bean-hole affair in Maine's western foothills and after one too many chicken roasts were ruined by spitting rain.
  6. Bring your appetite because it's an all-you-can-eat buffet--well, at least until the next batch of ninety growling stomachs storms through the door.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Disclosure: My grandparents Labrecque are members of the North Gorham Church of Christ and think of their monthly stints as supper volunteers as nights out on the town.

P.P.S. Check out this history of the Maine baked bean supper, courtesy of the Maine Folklife Center. Money quote from the Folklife Center's meditation on the bean supper: "When Friday night comes, it's just an urge that comes over me to start that fire and start baking bean-hole beans." Indeed.

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