Candy's phone call threw Maggie into a tizzy, but she managed not to drive off the highway and to cover her consternation with aplomb. "Sure, Candy, of course I remember the potluck tonight." Maggie swallowed. "Yes, Josh and I will be there with bells on."
Maggie did remember. It was written in her datebook – for next week. A glance at the dashboard clock told her she'd better speed up a little.
Kicking off her heels as she bolted in the door, Maggie flung her keys in the general direction of the hall table. She flew to the kitchen, threw open a cabinet door and frantically shoved cans of carrots and corn out of the way. She spied her prize and plucked two cans of BeeBee's Baked Beans from the back of the shelf.
Thank you Mama K. for your side dish sermons.
The elder Kleinsdorf women, from generations before Maggie's mother-in-law, have preached the same lesson to the young women who marry their sons. “Always be prepared in a pinch.”
Maggie's signature “pinch dish” was her own Grandma's barbeque beans. ¬Although I don't think canned beans was the type of thing Mama K had in mind when she admonished her daughters-in-law.
Maggie smiled, thinking of how folks back home had always crooned over Grandma's beans and clamored for the recipe. But this wasn't Foster's Hollow, and these weren't her folks. And beans didn't sound all that special anymore. What do church ladies bring to potlucks in the city?
Knowing she was fresh out of caviar and lobster, Maggie scanned her selection of canned goods and frozen foods, checked her watch, and, taking into consideration her limited options and the ticking clock, made the only logical choice.
Despite the recipe's name, Maggie had never made Company Carrots for anyone other than Josh. Her quick-dinner canned version cut the cooking time from 35 minutes to five. She prayed it would still be appropriate for company.
Maggie hoped she and Josh could saunter in nonchalantly and she could make a break for the kitchen. Her plan was foiled when a flurry flew at her as soon as they cleared the social hall doorway.
"Maggie!” Candy squealed. “And Josh, so glad you could come. Randy's over there talking football with the guys; he'd love a fellow Tech fan to back up his trash talk. Maggie, do you need the microwave? What did you bring? Please don't say beans. I love beans but we are overrun with them tonight. But if you did, it's ok.” Candy snagged the dish from Maggie's hands. “Come on, let's go to the kitchen.”
Maggie sent a pitiful look Josh's way, but he just smiled and gave her a thumbs-up as he made his way to the gaggle of men. She had no choice but to follow in Candy's weaving wake through the islands of people.
“I'm sorry,” Candy threw over her shoulder, “I didn't give you a chance to answer. I'm bad about that. Do you need to use the microwave?”
“Yes, please,” Maggie blurted out before she lost her nerve. They breezed past the buffet on the way to the kitchen, and she saw that Candy hadn't been exaggerating. Beans of all shapes, sizes, and flavors populated the long row of folding tables. In addition to five varieties of baked beans she saw three-bean salads, chickpea salads, Lima beans, butter beans, black beans, red beans and rice, succotash, and several obligatory green bean casseroles.
“So,” Candy said, bursting through the kitchen door ahead of her, “whatcha got?”
Maggie was stunned at the bustle of women, plus a few men, stirring tea, scooping ice, wrapping silverware, and otherwise making last minute preparations. They look kinda like me—harried and hurried. But they don't look panicked. They're...laughing.
“Maggie? The microwave's over here. What did you bring?”
“Oh, uh, carrots. It's not much really, but it's one of our favorite dishes.”
Candy was actually silent for a few seconds before she squealed and said, “Carrots? Oh bless you! Like I said, beans are good, but a person's digestive system can only take so much. Not to mention the ventilation system. Emma! Are those your famous baked beans you're about to nuke? Yum! But we've already got some on the table--can we save yours? Maggie brought carrots!”
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