If you have known me long enough, you have surely heard my tuna fish story. It goes something like this: “I love food, I love all foods! Well, except one. The only thing I really have a hard time with is tuna fish from a can. Fresh tuna – sushi tuna! – is great. The canned tuna issue all started when I was 3. I went to a big preschool that had its own cafeteria and offered (my mom claims ‘required,’ but my adult self shakes my head at her looking back) hot lunches. So I ate hot lunches every day, ‘because it was required.’
“There were a lot of mediocre dishes, I’m sure. But my memory really just latched on to two food memories from this time period. One tasty and one absolutely revolting. The latter was none other than the feared, the jiggling, the mountainous tuna fish casserole. Now, I could go on about this dish. But there’s little point. I imagine most reasonable people can imagine why a fishy-smelling, unidentifiable pile of hot mess would be unappetizing, to say the least, to a 3-year-old.
“But what I do need to explain is this cafeteria’s 3-bites rule. Some of you may have grown up with this rule in your households; however, I was apparently spoiled enough to find this to be close to prison law tactics. The rule is, you have to be seen taking three bites of each item on your plate before you can be ‘done,’ and go to recess. You who were smarter, more conniving children than I might be thinking, ‘Well that’s easy, just take three bites, then spit them out on the playground!’ I, unfortunately, had yet to comprehend the risk/benefit ratio of lying in my first three years of life. And so there I was, paralyzed by morality, staring down my duty every tuna fish Friday.
“With enough prodding, my 3-year-old hand would inevitably clamp onto a tiny metal fork and scoop up a quarter fork-full of the vomit-like substance. Forcing three quick tastes into my little mouth all at once, the reaction was always the same. At the overwhelming smell and taste combination, not to mention the mouth feel, a gag reflex would kick in. I would then be forced to re-swallow what I had already confronted once. And with an, I’m sure, adorable little alcoholic’s shudder with the last drop going down, I would raise my hand to be let out for playtime.”
And so it was that my tuna problem started. And when my mom did start letting me take sack lunch to school in Kindergarten, it began a decade-long peanut butter and jelly addiction that I clung to like it was air to breathe (What other choice was there?).
I bring all this up today because, being January, I was leaning in the comfort food direction. And what came to mind was the other dish I remember from preschool prison. The tasty one. Good ol’ beans’n’franks. Sigh. Where the tuna mess was putrid, this bean dish was invitingly sweet, where tuna was inane, the bean-frank combination was identifiable comfort food genius.
Incredibly, I have managed to never make beans’n’franks in my kitchen. Until today. And so I share it with you, on one condition: three bites before recess.
Changes I made:
- Used 2 T of bacon grease stored in my fridge, and skipped the actual bacon
- Added 8 organic, grass-fed beef hot dogs, sliced into coin-like pieces
- I used pinto beans
- I didn’t include bell pepper. Meh.
- I didn’t have any BBQ sauce or Worcestershire sauce. I didn’t use either, and I didn’t even substitute anything for them, and it still came out good. (Maybe a bit more bland, but that’s what my 3-year-old memory was asking for, so it worked out nicely.)