Henry and the Swing-Away – Margaret’s cut beans with almonds


Margaret writes with this account, and a simple recipe for cut green beans from a can with slivered almonds. Thanks, Margaret!




First, I need to explain the Swing-Away can opener, made by the Dazey Company out of St. Louis many years ago. It’s wall-mounted, and hangs on the end of the cupboard in the kitchen, near the sink, and it’s been there for years because we’re living in Henry’s dad’s house since he passed on and it’s always been there, best as I can recall.

DSC_9762Our house out on Percy Point Way. Used to be Henry’s Dad’s. Chester Mullen keeps his plow rig there, summer and winter.

This is a fine can opener with a big crank handle so you slap the can into place, make a few cranks, and the lid comes off just that easy – a lot less trouble than those hand-held openers with the tiny handles that you can’t mange very well if you have arthritis or other problems with your hands, because it takes a lot more muscle and straining. Anyway, every few days or so we’re using the Swing-Away to open tuna or beans or peas or tomatoes or whatnot, because there are still lots of good things that come in cans.

Sometimes I use it, sometimes it’s Henry. Now the curious thing is, when Henry opens the Swing-Away out from the cupboard to open a can, he almost never puts the Swing-Away back against the cupboard. It just hangs out there in space, like something that wants to grab you in the face or butt against your head if you’re not careful. So what I do is, when he’s not looking, I lift the Swing-Away out of its notch and turn it back toward the cupboard wall, out of harm’s way. And I’ve been doing it for nearly twenty years, as long as we’ve lived here.








How Henry leaves the Swing-Away on the left, and what I do with it, on the right.

But this is my main point, which I should get to sooner rather than later. I’ve never mentioned it to him. And don’t plan to. But not long ago Phyllis came over to borrow my angle grinder and I made tea and I put the Swing-Away back against the cupboard, and she noticed what I’d done. She asked me about it, and I told her it was one of Henry’s quirks to leave the Swing-Away hanging out into space, and that I didn’t mind correcting the situation.

“Well, if it were me,” she said, “I’d let Francis know every time I fixed something for him. Why keep him in the dark?”

“Well, Phyll, it’s just a Henry-ism and I don’t mind.”

“It doesn’t fezzle you?”

“No, not at all. See, as my grandmother used to say, little habits like that can be kind of fetching.”

There’s plenty of other things I do for Henry without claiming credit for it, like cleaning out his electric shaver, replacing his toothbrush from time to time, hosing mud off his boots or sometimes taking the slugs out of them when he leaves them lying flat on the porch on a wet day. And I expect he’s done similar things for me, though nothing comes immediately to mind. And that’s one reason we’re a good pair and will stay married to the end. It was different with Henry’s parents, especially his mom who was one of those fault-finding howlers, and didn’t help his dad’s drinking habits one tiny bit. They split up years ago, and not a moment too soon by Henry’s reckoning.

So that’s my pearl of wisdom for the day: do nice small things for someone else without them ever knowing. If you have to take credit for it, I think it takes the shine off your good deed.


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Cut beans with almonds

This isn’t much of a recipe – it’s just something Henry and I like to eat. Get your favorite canned cut green beans. I buy the store brand because they’re just as good and cheaper. Open the can with your Swing-Away or whatever can opener you have. Heat the beans in a saucepan. Throw in a handful of slivered almonds. Also a dot of butter, or olive oil if you prefer. Heat another minute or so. Then drain and serve. You can add crumbled bacon if you want. I took some pictures, right here.






First, open the can. Then pour beans with liquid into saucepan. Heat. Add slivered almonds. Heat some more, then drain, and serve with pat of butter. Great flavor!!


One of Henry’s favorites – he’s not much into greens, but he likes these!


I appreciate Margaret pinch-hitting today. There you have it for now.



Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.