he concept behind this strange culinary adventure was born during the January 2003 iteration of the Rat Pack's monthly Thursday night outing to Sullivan's steak house. While perusing the menu over an early round of martinis, one of our party, perhaps a bit weary of the standard creamed spinach and horseradish mashed potatoes, asked our waitress for her asessment of the green beans. Her unflinching reply is indissolubly recorded in the Rat Pack archives: "The green beans," Melissa bubbled, "are awesome."
Of course, we were all more or less familiar with this nonstandard usage, intended, as I understand it, to mean "in possession of some positive but otherwise unspecified quality." Nonetheless, the very idea of an awesome green bean was intriguing. For me, it revived a distant memory of a Thanksgiving dinner in the mountains of West Virginia, where I enjoyed an intensely flavorful pot of beans cooked slowly in bacon fat, a treatment to which the tough variety indigenous to that region lends itself especially well. Reed, meanwhile, was reminded of a spicy Schechuan rendition that he had once encountered during his travels, and Bevier's thoughts turned to Chicago's Greektown. After a session of swapping stories along these lines over another round of martinis, our reaction to the rather ordinary plate of beans that Melinda finally delivered from the kitchen was something less than awe.
The entire incident could easily have been lost forever, like so many other drunken Thursday night discussions, if not for Tim's proposal to host a dinner to which each us who were in attendance that evening would be invited to contribute a dish of green beans of his own creation, with Melinda's hyperbole serving as inspiration. The event was a resounding success, and thanks to Tim's vision and persistence, the Awesome Green Bean Festival is now an annual tradition.
Our original intention was to compile the recipes of each dinner.
This lasted three years:
Recently, it occurred to me that there is an opportunity here for a book. (I've seen sillier culinary themes in book stores.) This is still in the early planning stages -- the table of contents is taking shape, but only a few of the recipes have been written and tested:
Awesome Green Bean Festival t-shirts and other apparel
are now available at the AGBF on-line store