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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart

April 30, 2007

 (but not your arrest record… or your pedicure)

Last week I read a story in The Evening Standard that opened with the sentence: “Hugh Grant has been arrested after allegedly hurling a tub of baked beans at a photographer.”

O.K., I’ll bite. How can one read an opening line such as that and not continue?

The word “allegedly” is included in the sentence for The Evening Standard’s legal comfort. There is an accompanying photograph of Grant— the movie actor who starred in the quintessential chick flick Four Weddings and a Funeral— midway through his windup, a carry-out container of baked beans at the ready, seconds before they were “alledgedly” hurled at the photographer.

It struck me as odd that a stuffy Brit such as Grant would— not only have eaten baked beans but— enjoyed his serving of baked beans so much that he asked the restaurant for a doggie bag to bring home the half-eaten portion of tomato-and vinegar-spiked legumes.

This is how The Evening Standard reported the incident:

“The arrest followed a clash with the freelance paparazzi photographer outside Grant’s Chelsea home on Tuesday morning.”

“Mr Whittaker said he had turned up to take pictures of the actor’s former girlfriend Liz Hurley, who lives in the same street. When Grant, 46, arrived in his car he asked him to smile as he took his picture.”

“The film star allegedly snapped, swearing at Mr Whittaker, 43, and reportedly kicking him three or four times. Then, as Grant entered his house, he allegedly turned and threw a plastic container of baked beans at him.”

“Mr Whittaker told a tabloid newspaper: ‘I said Give us a smile please and he looked really angry. I walked backwards and he walked after me. He kicked me hard three or four times then kneed me in the groin.’”

I don’t have much sympathy for paparazzi types but getting knocked upside the head by a pint of beans and then kicked in the groin by a middle-aged actor is certainly demoralizing and humiliating.

The second photograph included in the article was of Grant attempting to kick the photographer. His foot is four inches off of the ground and nowhere near the groin. I’ll give Grant a pass on that count as he had no time to warm up and stretch before the bean-throwing, paparazzi-kicking exercise began.

Typically, I would spend the remaining column inches at my disposal on jokes that make fun of Grant, his movies, the blandness of British food, and beans in general. But as I was writing this, I remembered a humiliating baked-bean incident from my past.

During my college years, while waiting tables in one of those brass-and-fern style restaurants, I spilled and eight-ounce bouillon bowl of baked beans on a woman’s foot.

I had just arrived at her table and the serving tray was still in a position high above my head. The beans fell from a height approximately seven feet above the floor and landed upside down and squarely on her instep.

An eight-ounce bouillon bowl weighs over nine ounces. Filled with beans it probably approaches one pound. Pardon my physics, but a one-pound bowl, falling from a height of seven feet, traveling at a velocity of… Well, you get the picture. The beans fell fast and they fell hard. The woman let out a shrill shriek and then a series of low-pitched sobs and moans.

She was wearing sandals and I stood speechless as I watched the steaming hot beans ooze through her toes and onto the floor. I almost lost my job due to the leguminous pedicure but was saved by the woman’s graciousness. Her husband, on the other hand, gave me the evil eye. When I asked if I could bring his wife another side order of beans, he asked for a towel, the manager, and a baked potato instead.

It seems that baked beans are quickly becoming a weapon of the future. It won’t be too long before someone in this part of the country figures out how to kill a deer with them.

The photographer is lucky that Grant lives in London. Had the actor been a resident of Mississippi, he would have been coming home with a doggie bag full of fried chicken wings and tater logs— both of which would be more effective hurling weapons than baked beans.

In the end, justice was served last week as every man who has had to sit through Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually, Sense and Sensibility, and both Bridget Jones movies in theatres, again on HBO, and then on DVD, every Valentine’s Day, and every anniversary, exhaled a collective sigh of jubilant satisfaction. Karma can be a beautiful thing.


Cookout Baked Beans

1 lb Bacon, thick-sliced, diced
1 1 /2 cup Onion, diced
3 /4 cup Bell pepper, diced
1 tsp Barbeque Seasoning
1 cup Barbecue sauce
2 Tbl Honey
2 tsp Yellow mustard
1 Tbl Liquid Smoke
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 /2 cup Chicken Broth
2 large cans Bush’s Country Style Baked Beans, drained

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large saucepot render bacon. Add onion, bell pepper and BBQ seasoning. Cook five minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Place in a 2 1 /2-quart baking dish and cover with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Yield: ten servings

BBQ Seasoning

1 /3 cup Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 /3 cup Paprika
2 Tbl Onion Powder
2 Tbl Cayenne Pepper
1 Tbl White Pepper
5 tsp Garlic Powder
1 Tbl Black Pepper
1 Tbl Dry Mustard
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Thyme

Mix thoroughly. Yield: one cup

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