aunt rita’s baked beans


I read recently about “Blue Zones” — places of the world where people live remarkably longer and better. It’s all quite fascinating.  The highlands of Sardinia, Italy; a Greek island, Ikaria; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California, all boast healthy elderly populations that stand out among all others in the world.

I’m intrigued by distinctions among the Blue Zones. For example, Sardinia harbors the most long-lived male population on the planet and Okinawa the oldest females. Elders in Ikaria not only live longer but suffer dramatically less with Alzheimer’s disease. Costa Rica spends a small fraction on health care by comparison to U.S. yet Nicoya residents are 2.5 times more likely to reach a healthy age 90. Loma Linda boasts the most highly concentrated population of Seventh Day Adventists in the world, known for keeping a strict Sabbath and biblical diet.

According to Buettner there are several commonalities among the Blue Zones, as you’ll learn when you listen in. Above all, the cornerstone to longevity across populations is beans. Yes, beans! Researchers concluded that one cup of beans per day yields four years to life expectancy. Every two extra ounces of beans lowers morality rate by nine per cent. Bam!

Well, this got me thinking. It is Memorial Day Weekend. We are hosting a picnic with friends. I have one great bean recipe: “Aunt” Rita’s baked beans, the crowd favorite at every church potluck. I don’t even like baked beans and I love these. I’ve tried — and failed — twice to replicate her magic. Now I am Blue Zone motivated to figure it out.

I read through the recipe, deliberately, carefully. I prepared the beans exactly as instructed, no short-cuts or alternate ingredients. Glad I didn’t skip the step about culling stray matter. I found a random piece of corn and a stone.

Do you know what? My beans turned out beautifully! I can’t imagine how I bungled this up before now. I swear Aunt Rita’s beans have more flavor and the Hubs agrees ;=) so I’m not quite satisfied. I even used extra bacon. (Yeah, I know. Not necessarily Blue Zone approved.) But my beans were so tender, done on time, and still quite delicious that I’m declaring a win for my recipe book.

BONUS! I’m sharing Aunt Rita’s hand-written recipe. This dear saint shares it freely so I’m quite sure she won’t mind that I’m doing the same. I hope you enjoy and let me know how they turn out.

PROLOGUE: I made another batch of beans for our friends a day in advance of our party. I remembered the salt this time, which surely helped the flavor. To hedge my bets I swirled in a bit of bacon drippings. The only thing I forgot was to but the doggone beans in the oven! They were perfectly set about the time our party wrapped. Good grief. Our friends ate soupy beans without complaint, no doubt so I’d finally stop talking about my conquest. The next day I dropped off some of the perfectly baked portion to Aunt Rita. It sure felt great to share back her beans.

~ Sondra

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