On my last trip to our local ethnic store, I found a bag of Piekny Jas and bought it. Tthe packet cost me nearly $5 for just 12 oz.
But one glance at the large white plump dried beans and I was reminded of a pleasant memory I hold of my mother's family...
I am a teenager, visiting my family in Poland, one household at a time on both my mothers and fathers side. It is my first trip back to Poland.
A Ciocia of mine, from my mothers side, lives in a small village in Wielkopolska, sitting in the middle of Polish fields.
Ciocia has a small apartment, a husband and two children. She also has a garden.
Her small garden feeds her family though out the year. In her garden, my Ciocia grows apples, with which she makes a compote. I ate so many of those apples that summer, that one of my life's goals now, as trivial as it may seem to others, is to make that same compote.
My Ciocia also grows dill, parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, chives, cabbage, and beans, perhaps more but these are the fruits and vegetables I remember.
One day, she took me with her to harvest some of the food she would prepare and preserve for winter.
We walked down the stairs of her small apartment complex, out the wooden door, and into the street.
Down to the wooden fence by a house I could imagine being well over 200 years old, a little before the village's looming Catholic church.
A turn in the road, past a roadside shrine, and we walk down a dirt road passing several other houses, ducks and chickens eying us with a mild curiosity. Flowers decorate yards, bees sing about their sweet summer nectar, butterflies fly away from us.
My cousin, brother and I talk a bit but mostly, we look around. Every other shuttered, red roofed house we pass, I think "I wish this was my home". I wonder about the people inside. If they loved that house as much as I do at that moment.
A woman looks up from talking to a small child, sheilds her eyes with her hand and waves before going back to the child and the blue flower he is holding.
The houses stop and a field spreads before us for miles, dotted with trees, clusters and remnants of an ancient forest.
We turn to the side and follow a trail.
We enter her garden with large baskets on our arms, my Ciocia, our younger cousin, my brother and myself. She showed us which beans were ready to harvest and we picked them fresh off the vine together under a warm Sun, the Polish fields which stretching for miles around us.
The same Polish fields which Poland is named after, as "Pole" (pronounced "Poh-leh") means "Fields" in Polish.
The same Polish fields which my ancestors nurtured and harvested, their very lives connected to the soil inseparably. Generation to generation, father and husband to son, wife and mother to daughter, working together for their sustenance.
For their future.
For moments like this.
Sitting under the warm Polish sun, eating freshly picked apples, and removing the beans from their pods into a plastic bowl. Beans which look so similar to Piekny Jas that perhaps that is what they were...
So, perhaps this is why I spent nearly $5 for a bag of beans, went home, and made a pot of Fasolka po Bretonsku.