Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Saga of Don's Infamous Beans.....

Growing up, my dad worked as the head cook at The Honor Camp in La Honda, CA.  This is a minimum security jail facility outside of Redwood City for those that are familiar with California.  Now, dad is actually a very excellent cook, much better than mom but that's a different story.

Dad's signature dish at The Honor Camp was chili beans.  I have since gotten the recipe for these now "infamous" beans and there's nothing toxic, outrageous, or otherwise out of the ordinary in them, they are the most bland of ingredients when they're seperate.  For some reason when he made them at "the camp" as he called it at home, it became something of a ticking time bomb in someone's stomach.  This is the re-telling of those tales as I remember them from my childhood.

Tale # 1  The Dogs & Doctor Death

One deputy was an avid hunter, he liked to shoot smaller game, ducks, rabbits, things like that.  He had specially bred dacshunds that he used to scare them out from underneath the brush so he could get them.  One day he made the grave error of telling my dad something he learned to regret.

"Don, whatever you have leftover just give it to me, my dog's will eat anything!"

Dad of course had quite a bit of this wonderful tasting noxious concoction left over and gave it to him.  Now, what this unsuspecting deputy that dad gave this to didn't realize was that the batch that dad had given him was enough to feed about twenty people give or take a few.  When we think of a dog's appetite we think that they can eat quite a bit and not have any problems.  Unfortunately considering the size and the amount that each dog consumed, this proved fatal.  There was one left that was the most loyal and cuddly to this deputy, but when he got home the dog was growling and snapping at him, but she too didn't last long.  Not long after this dad was referred to as "Dr. Death", the deputies even had a special placard made up for his dorm room at work.

Side effect #1

Later on, when word got around to the deputies and the inmates, it became common practice to threaten anyone not conforming with a forced second helping.  Part of the problem was that sometimes people purposely subjected themselves to this since the chili was actually quite good, it was just, like I said before, a time bomb waiting to do it's worst.

Tale #2  The Green Deputy

It was common practice for the deputies to switch off with the deputies that were in town, or to stop off and eat when they were tansporting prisoners.  One deputy had his newbie hanging with him after one of these drop offs.  Newbie of course eats the beans and finds them really good, his partner warns him quite extensively that they'll be doing road patrol later, he might not want to have that second bowl.  Yes, they went out on road patrol and the trip did not bode well for the newbie.  They were driving on some overpasses when the urge came over him suddenly to do his thing, but there wasn't anywhere in sight and it was quickly becoming an emergency.  This poor man wound up hanging from the overpass and his undershirt had to work in a pinch.  Needless to say, his partner was never doubted from that time forward.

Tale #3  The Lieutenant and his Wife

A new Lt came on board at the camp.  This wasn't bad, this happened every so many years, it's just the way it is there.  His wife and him lived in a nicer part of town, from what I remember dad saying she was a banking VP or something like that, basically the business suits to work type.  Yes, the deputies warned the Lt not to have that second, or was it third bowl, of chili but he continued chowing down lauding the praises of dad's cooking all the while.  His shift ended and he went home, needless to say him by himself put the Blazing Saddles campfire scene to shame.  Wife comes home tired from her long day and the first thing she does is sniff like a bloodhound on the trail of it's prey.  She starts moving the furniture around, looking under things, moving what she's already moved twice before.  Finally she sticks her hands on her hips and smacks her husband.

"Get up and help me!  The dog's crapped in the house and I can't find it." 

Well, at first he was able to get away with blaming the dog, to be honest who really hasn't done that at least once or twice?  After this "ghost crap" was never located the wife put two and two together (she's good with numbers, remember she's a bank VP?) she realized that it was husband who created the olfactory overload and banished him to the couch for, tale has it, a month.  Unfortunately being in the position that she was, the couch was more for looks than for comfort, the Lt was about as uncomfortable as could be.

"Don!  I forbid you to ever make that chili here at the camp as long as I'm Lt of this post!"  So came the banned chili.

Oh, the deputies still asked Don to make his "infamous" chili for old times sakes, but it wasn't until the Lt left the post right before the camp shut down that he was actually able to do it again.  I am pleased to report that in that instance there wasn't any casualties, accidents, or banishments to the couch (that were reported) at this feeding.  Although, before the camp closed it's doors for good the deputies got together and got dad a trophy.  They had taken a #20 tomato can and replaced the label with one that had dad's smiling face presiding over a huge vat of the edible weapon the caption read "Don's Famous Chili".  It was complete with a list of ingredients.  Dad swears up and down that they got the ingredients off of a bottle of industrial strength cleaning chemicals (it sure isn't the same recipe that dad gave me several years later after much cajoling and wheedling) but some people still have their doubts. 

For the sake of my family I have chosen to leave everyone but my dad's name out of this.  The last thing dad needs is to have lawsuits popping up, even so many years later.  Now, despite this one choice of menu, dad was and is a very good cook and he taught me most everything he knows.  To this day I haven't made this chili recipe, not sure I even want to risk it!


  1. Heehee. Totally funny. Loved this story - glad there hasn't been any casualties at that last feeding. Maybe he should can it and sell it. Great post! :D

  2. Looking forward to your A to Z posts!

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