The Bean Party

The pot on the stove was simmering and the hearty smell of lamb and potatoes wafted through the house. The bathrooms were clean. Books, papers, and craft projects had been corralled into the art room. At the risk of being too cliché, I almost felt like dancing with the broom while sweeping the front porch.

The oven chimed its preheated signal. I dropped a single Great Northern bean into the chocolate batter in the cake pans. It disappeared from view, and I carefully transported the pans to the oven.

This winter, I had too many frozen dinners. Too many times I’d said, “Well, I can just grab something to-go on my way.” Too many times of cooking a meal and then eating it for days, in the same spot, without conversation.

With the cake cooling on the counter, I put on a festive green skirt I had made and a nice top (after all, it was the last day of Christmas). I knew we would enjoy tonight. People always had fun at my parties. I had a small fear though, would they have enough fun to want to play the game? Were they also feeling this loneliness or was I the only one who noticed it? I looked at the clock. Time for the final details. I frosted the cake and tucked it away in the fridge. I lit candles and turned on the lamps. I did what every good hostess does and quickly shoved the used dishtowels behind the closed laundry room door.

Then the doorbell started to ring, literally. The historic carriage house where I live still has the original mechanical bell. With a few twists, it rang clearly through the whole house. As guests came in, one by one, I hung up their coats. They each carried something for the table, Mediterranean salad, LaCroix, sugar cookies, and more.

When all had arrived, we sat down for Shepherd’s Pie soup. All six of us sat around my table. We were elbow to elbow and knee to knee. Everything and everyone within reach at the same table. The meal opened with a prayer and a toast. We clinked mismatched wineglasses filled with sparkling cider.

As we ate (and ate!) we talked about the latest classes Josh was taking, how Anne’s new job was going, and about Liz’s uncertain musings over her long-term goals. We teased each other, listened to each other, and leaned in to hear the punchline of Joel’s joke.

When everyone was nearly satisfied, tea was suggested. There was a flurry of activity as a few people jumped in to wash the dishes, so we’d have clean plates for a dessert round. Others started selecting their tea from the assorted variety in a basket while I brought down mugs and teacups.  Anne put the kettle on.

Everyone settled back at the table, warm cups in hand on the chilly night. I placed the cake on the table, the centerpiece. I cleared my throat. “I’ve made dessert, but there is a game to play while we eat it.”

Exclamations of laughter and surprise rang up from the table!

“There is one dry Great Northern bean in this cake. The person who finds it will host the group in the next two months. This is similar to a Twelfth Night tradition. Do you all want to play? If we do, we all have to be in agreement.”

I held my breath, thinking at least one person would hesitate. Instead, they all eagerly agreed! As I cut into the cake, they all instructed me.


“Why does Joel get a bigger slice?”

“Make sure you distribute clockwise around the table so if someone sees it they won’t claim that slice!”

“What if none of us have it?”

When everyone had been served, and only then, we began to eat our cake. Andrew immediately mashed his up before eating it, confirming the bean was not in his. Josh and Joel also ate quickly and were eyeing the small section left on the serving plate. Anne turned red as those finished turned to look at her eat. Liz laughed, “I keep getting distracted because I’m looking at everyone else’s plate!” I wondered if I would find the bean and be hosting again.

Finally, when the cake was almost entirely gone, Liz smiled broadly and raised a fist in the air. “Yes!” The rest of the table groaned.

“Maybe I’ll get it next time.”

“Liz, you’re going to make another cake, right?”

“Yeah, let’s keep it going!”

And that is why, last month, I was invited to a bean party.

Photo by Cristina Matos-Albers on Unsplash

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