Experiencing a 'first' at the grocery store

As my daughter approaches her ninth birthday in April, I recall a year of exciting "firsts" in her life.

Audrey visited Tennessee. She wake boarded. She learned to multiply. Studied Spanish. Got a Nintendo. Opened a bank savings account.

There was another "first," one that surprised me and made me question my parenting skills. This "first" happened at a grocery store.

No, it wasn't her first time knocking over a display of pickles in glass jars. Rather, it was her first time ever hearing of a certain can of delectable little edibles, a favorite meal of my youth.

It was a Sunday. My family was shopping at a Bi-Lo in Rock Hill. After church, of course.

Audrey and I made our regular trek by the store bakery for free cookie samples. Then, we began our adventure through the aisles.

My wife, Edith, loaded our cart with necessities such as milk, cheese, yogurt, cereal, bread, soup, rice and chicken.

Audrey and I scanned the shelves for other food staples such as macaroni and cheese, two-Liter soda pop, ice cream, fruit roll-ups, muffins and cream cakes. Some cans on aisle eight caught my eye. Tempted me from the top row. Near the pork and beans, baked beans, chili beans, butter beans, lima beans, northern beans and garbanzo beans. They sported red and brown labels.

Voila! It was those lovable beans and franks.

"What about some Beanee Weenees?" I asked. Audrey's immediate reply: "What's that?"

I was stunned. Questions ran through my head. "How could my own daughter not know what Beanee Weenees are? What has she eaten all her life? Am I exposing her to the right variety of things in life? Is she deprived of essentials? Have I failed as a parent?"

I hope she's a fairly well-rounded kid. She makes good grades in school. She's polite. Has good manners most of the time. Gets along with her friends. Plays soccer and other sports. Sings in the church youth choir. Knows her way around a computer. Talks constantly with her stuffed animals.

But she'd never heard of Beanee Weenees!

I grew up with beans and franks. That tasty mixture of white navy beans with sliced beef, pork and/or chicken wieners in tomato sauce. The ones that make a great lunch all alone.

Quick: Open the can. Easy: No need to heat. Fun: Separate the beans and hot dogs.

Might I add: fiber content, low price and funny name?

They even served me well at Winthrop College. Many a wholesome and filling meal was made from a budget can of Beanee Weenees. I sometimes splurged with a side of boxed macaroni and cheese. And I was really living when I walked to a nearby convenience store to add fried potato wedges, at 10 cents each.

It's here I'm forced to admit that I'm still as cheap as the day I left college. Yes, I bought a different brand of beans and franks for my daughter just to save a few pennies.

The original Beanee Weenees are made by Van Camp's and cost 89 cents per 7.75-ounce can at the store we visited. They come in original, smoked hickory, barbeque, baked and other flavors.

There is also the Phillips brand for 83 cents. I bought a plain 7.5-ounce can of Southgate brand beans and franks for 63 cents.

Audrey and I split that can for lunch soon afterward. She pronounced that simple meal just "OK." I think we've eaten one other can since.

I guess my old standards are challenged by today's flashy kid foods, such as Lunchables by Kraft Foods. At least my sweet daughter and her friends do still eat the occasional yummy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and yes, bowl of mac and cheese.

With Beans and Franks Day coming up on July 13, maybe, just maybe, I can talk Audrey into sharing one more can. That date also happens to be National French Fries Day.

Now there's a tasty two-course-meal idea!