All hail bugs in the beans


THE BRIDE has a gift for whipping up the most wonderful dinners on the fly and making it look easy, but once in a while she’ll ask me to prepare red beans and rice, a dish on the very outer limits of my culinary talent. It involves, after all, putting beans and rice in a pot and bringing it to a boil.

To be fair, it does take a few other ingredients, all of which travel well in the saddlebags. A little olive oil, salt, pepper, an onion, a few dried tomatoes…

That’s what she felt like having this Saturday evening past. She had started the beans soaking that morning.

So now I’m getting things ready to go on the stove and I say, in passing: You don’t care if the beans are full of bugs, do you?

Except she does care. Indeed, I learn that she cares about bugs in the beans more than she cares about many things.

But… there’s… bugs (and worse) in everything we eat. They may be ground up but they’re in there. Common knowledge. What difference does it make whether the bugs are in one piece and you can see them?

These were little black beetles, by the way. Weevils, I guess. A weevil is a beetle, isn’t it? Never mind…

At left, Dr. Stephen Maturin, who, on a voyage around Cape Horn, foolishly chose the greater of two weevils. Later on he gets shot. But over some other issue.


We keep a dialogue going but the bride continues to care about bugs in the beans. I offer to get a spoon and scoop out the floaters, but there’s no moving her. I can dine on infested beans, she’ll be whipping up something else for herself, thanks.

Think of the half-starved men and women lugging 75mm and 105mm guns up and over mountains to get within range of the French invader at Dien Bien Phu. They’d laugh at us fussing over bugs in the beans.

I observe, too, that no one freezing at Valley Forge would have turned up their nose. To the contrary, a little bug protein might get you through to the spring! They’d call it a godsend, bugs in the beans.

I’m disoriented by her delicate attitude, for the bride is pioneer stock through and through.

What gives?


No one who campaigned with her kinsman, Col. Artemas Ward, would have flinched at bugs in the beans. Not at Fort Ticonderoga, nor in the siege of Boston after the musket brawl at Lexington and Concord.


This is true, as true as the bugs in the beans (which were delicious, by the way). The bride is descended from a great-grandfather of Artemas Ward; Deacon William Ward, an English Puritan who emigrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639.

Her ancestor, in other words, was a cousin to America’s first commander in chief.

You’re thinking George Washington was the first. Not so. When the rebellious Colonel Ward took the field against the British, Washington wasn’t even in the fight yet. He was in Philadelphia serving as a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress.

Take it from me and the bugs in the beans, our first commander in chief was Artemas Ward. Here’s his statue to prove it, on Ward Circle, in Washington, D.C.


When the Revolution broke out in April 1775, the Massachusetts militias got together and elected Ward commander in chief. Connecticut and New Hampshire quickly threw in their own citizen soldiers, under Ward’s command.

Fueled on beans almost certainly full of bugs, the New England men drove the Redcoats back to Boston. They bottled them up there while the Congress dithered and hemmed and hawed about raising a Continental Army. When it finally commissioned Washington to lead that army as America’s second commander in chief, Ward took a step back and served under him as a major general.

After the Revolution, Ward was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

For that, I must say, I do hold the bugs responsible.

Tony DePaul, December 12, 2017, Cranston, Rhode Island, USA





About Tony

The occasional scribblings of Tony DePaul, 62, father, grandfather, husband, freelance writer in many forms, ex-journalist, long-distance motorcycle rider, motorcycle wrecker, motorcycle rebuilder, collector of surgical hardware, blue routes wanderer, outdoorsman, topo map bushwhacker, handy with a wrench, hammer, chainsaw, rifle, former photographer, printer, logger, truck driver, truck mechanic, jet fueler… blah blah...
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12 Responses to All hail bugs in the beans

  1. steve says:

    My beans are Chock FULL o’ Bugs! That’s the way I like it!

  2. Jeff says:

    Bugs just waiting in the beans to go on an adventure with you and the piggy. You are too f’in funny Tony. Made my day.

  3. Bill says:

    Gee Tony. You made me Google Dr. Stephen Maturin. It’s just protein. They keep saying we’ll all be eating them soon. Pam better get used to them. 🙂

  4. Susan Dewey says:

    1962, on a mission in Kenya, my mom freaked out about bugs in her beans. Each bean with a hole went into the discard pile, which our cook and housekeeper cheerfully took home. Not many were left in the to-be-cooked pile. After a few Saturdays with a paucity of beans in the pot, we were instructed to pick out only those beans that had been clearly munched. Still, there were not as many beans as hoped. By the time we left, in 1965, only rocks were culled from our bean dinner. More protein for us, said Mom. Ahhhh., life on the frontier.

    • Tony says:

      Ha! That’s an invaluable life lesson, Susan; to see things as they are, and adapt accordingly. What a privilege to be off in the world on an adventure where you learn such things at an early age.

  5. Tom Brown says:

    At first I thought you were referring to the literary Artemus Ward, who had a Maine connection but came along a century later. Here is excerpt from Brittanica:
    Artemus Ward, pseudonym of Charles Farrar Browne (born April 26, 1834, Waterford, Maine, U.S.—died March 6, 1867, Southampton, Hampshire, Eng.), one of the most popular 19th-century American humorists, whose lecture techniques exercised much influence on such humorists as Mark Twain.

    Starting as a printer’s apprentice, Browne went to Boston to work as a compositor for The Carpet-Bag, a humour magazine. In 1860, after several years as local editor for the Toledo (Ohio) Commercial and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, he became staff writer for Vanity Fair in New York.
    While working on the Plain Dealer, Browne created the character Artemus Ward, the manager of an itinerant sideshow who “commented” on a variety of subjects in letters to the Plain Dealer, Punch, and Vanity Fair. The most obvious features of his humour are puns and gross misspellings.

  6. Janet says:

    I remember Dad telling Renee a story about worms in blueberries that prevented her from eating them ever again

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