Nothing says Thanksgiving like a jar of green beans

Austin American-Statesman, November 28, 2013

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Here we are at Thanksgiving, that holiday when we gather in a confined space to eat to oblivion with loved ones and rediscover all the reasons why we don't actually live with them.

Here we are at Thanksgiving, that holiday when we gather in a confined space to eat to oblivion with loved ones and rediscover all the reasons why we don’t actually live with them.

But seriously, Thanksgiving is the near-perfect holiday, untainted by commercialism except for its promiscuous proximity to Black Friday. The annual celebration of misery’s only medicine: gratitude. Giving thanks — so simple, so spiritual. It comes during fall, the time of harvest, so, if our crops didn’t fail and our animals are alive, we’re thankful!

But let’s get real. What says Thanksgiving better than green beans — specifically one-gallon glass jars full of them? I used to see them on the shelves behind the line cooks at the Seton cafeteria on 38th Street.

I begged the jars off the sometimes grumpy dietary staff. After getting the food smell out of them (pickles were the worst), they were great for storing varieties of flour, sugar, rice, cornmeal, etc.

As new empty-nesters in 2004, Ian and I had three garage sales and downsized into a 1,550-square-foot loft. But I couldn’t bear to let the glass jars go. They held the staples in life all throughout the years the kids grew up, so I offered them to our three grown kids.

Here’s the email exchange (which also ran on these pages on Aug. 12, 2010):

FROM: Toni Inglis


DATE: Oct. 16, 2004

I’m rearranging my limited kitchen space and have those nice glass one-gallon jars with tasteful white plastic lids up for grabs.

Remember ’em? They stored stuff like flour and sugar. Now, with only two of us, we need smaller containers. I know what you’re thinking — why doncha just pitch ’em?

Well, there’s a reason. The cheerful Seton dietary people were kind enough to save them for me and it took forever to get the food smell out! But they’re the good, threaded jars.

As the metal lids failed over the years, I found nice white plastic lids for them at the Container Store. Glass one-gallon jars that properly seal are still hard to find, so if any of you want them, let me know. They’re air tight and great for storage.

FROM: Burton Knight


DATE: Oct. 17, 2004

While I have struggled to live my life, as one of your children, as if there simply WERE NO JARS, I see now that I must address my heir-ship to the JARS immediately. All my life I have truly struggled NOT to covet the spoils of maternal mortality. Yet I find myself unprepared for their being offered up so selflessly by you, not in death, but in the prime of peri-geriatric, empty-nest decadence.

Is this a noble goodbye from the far end of hospice soul-searching, or a stoic, Christ-like sacrifice? I could only wonder, if I weren’t fiendishly scheming for ways to eliminate my siblings. We both know how you loved me — your firstborn — the most.

When my wife read your missive, she finally confessed her longtime interest in the JARS with giddy anticipation. Yet I mustn’t let avarice take control.

The JARS, like your soul, cannot be possessed by one person. If only we could fragment the JARS, so that each person whose life you touched could enjoy a piece of your legacy, as it exists, so beautifully distilled into material treasure … the JARS!

Sadly, such an egalitarian paradise is a naive pipe dream at best. So, let us be frank. I am willing to offer you $100 per jar, or twice whatever either of my (unmarried!) siblings offers you. Surely you wouldn’t consider wasting such treasures on them! They wouldn’t know the first thing to do with a fine glass JAR.

I beg you, do not squander the fruits of your resourcefulness. I have mouths to feed! Maybe you would have your granddaughter eat cornmeal and brown sugar from Tupperware, [expletive] dammit!?

I’m sorry. It’s your decision. I know you’ll make the right one.

Your firstborn,


I never heard back from his two siblings, so Burton got the jars. Free of charge. This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for Burton and the rest of the family and for green beans, flour, sugar, cornmeal and the containers that hold them. Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

Toni Inglis, MSN, RN CNS (retired), FAAN, a lifelong Austin resident, is a retired neonatal intensive care nurse and editor of NursingNews. She also wrote a monthly opinion column for the Austin American-Statesman editorial pages for 10 years.