Syracuse, New York is hometown to Tom Cruise, Grace Jones, and Jake, who says his ancestors were Greek fishermen. Every now and then he’ll offhandedly mention “Uncle Ari and Aunt Jackie.”
Jake sniffs at my Southern heritage, informing me that his parents contributed to programs for eradicating hookworm, pellagra, and illiteracy in Mississippi. He came to Jackson over two decades ago as the result of a convoluted series of circumstances I’ve long since quit trying to unravel. He stayed because he likes the weather; his recollections of lake-effect snow are unbelievably horrific. Even after twenty-plus years here, people still ask him where he’s from. It drives him nuts.
Generous soul that I am, in an effort to reciprocate his family’s (likely fictitious) charity, I had to learn how to make good Yankee baked beans using the sturdy pots he brought back from Maine last year, which of course had been made by exceedingly sweet people in a religious community near Bangor. (No, I didn’t go; he was meeting his mother to visit an aunt, and I was better off here with weed and cable.)
I breathed deeply and put my gloves on. Then I took a pound of dried navy beans, a cup of diced ham with rind, and a half cup of sorghum molasses and threw it all into the (unquestionably gorgeous) 2 quart pot with a cup of chopped onions and a bay leaf. I covered them with water, seasoned with a teaspoon of black pepper and a heaping tablespoon of dry mustard. I water to the rim , covered the pot, and put it into a 250 oven for four hours.
The beans were damn good, almost buttery; the mustard cut the molasses just enough to let the beans make a statement. Of course Jake credited the results to the pots, so I whacked him with a wooden spoon. Twice.