We are raising two varieties of shell beans this year, Arikara, a bush-type and Hidatsa, a pole-type. These beans are both named after the North Dakota Native Americans who first grew them. We got the seeds, naturally (ooh, a punccident), from Seed Savers Exchange. Our intention is to work up some variations on baked bean recipes and if we like them we’ll grow more shell beans next year.

Baked beans have been one of my favorite foods since childhood, and they became even bigger favorites when an older cousin recited to me that rite of passage chant that every child must learn:

“Beans, beans, the musical fruit,

The more you eat the more you toot.

The more you toot the better you feel,

so let’s have beans for every meal.”

That was a happy experience I’ll cherish forever. Other such events came from the polka king of St. Paul, Minnesota, Whoopee John and his Orchestra. Who couldn’t love “The Laughing Song” or “In Heaven There is No Beer?” Who couldn’t love a guy called Whoopee?

That same older cousin of mine, a font of knowledge appealing to a 10 year-old, informed me that the polka king’s full name was Whoopee John Wilfahrt. Suddenly, I understood the significance of the tuba as a musical instrument, as well as the name “Whoopee.”

A grownup friend of my Dad’s once told me that his brother could play the tune to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” using nothing but digestive gases and his you-know-what. I can’t attest to the veracity of this tale. Knowing the parties involved, I think it’s most likely true.

Growing older we often leave the delights of childhood behind and assume a sense of social responsibility. Farts, once a great asset to amuse our friends, become a liability.

Image courtesy of Towsonu2003 via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s take a look at gas from a more adult perspective.

Our bodies naturally provide enzymes that handily digest sucrose, glucose, and fructose. But our bodies cannot handle the sugar raffinose. “Raffinose” even sounds like a trouble maker, a pirate, a mischievous spirit, perhaps a cat burglar. It looks like Mother Nature screwed up grandly here, considering the popularity of raffinose-intensive baked beans. Or it might be that Mother Nature has a grand sense of humor herself.

The only way the body can deal with raffinose is to send it directly to the large intestine where it is fermented by bacteria. We all know that fermentation creates gas, or for some folks, GAS. There is only one exit to the large intestine. We all know where it is, although some of us pretend we don’t. You really can’t blame the gas for wanting to get the hell out of there, even if it makes you look like a misfit at the dinner table.

If you just can’t give up your cabbage-broccoli-cauliflower diet, and those baked beans, you might consider getting a Masters Degree in Gas Preventionology. That’s what I did.

I am not making this up. It’s a hoot, or perhaps I should say, a toot. Even in adulthood we can choose to retain the delights of childhood if we so desire.

You can get your degree at the University of Gas.