Uncle Beni's Book of Beans and Jimi and the Printing Press



The first summer we got the Householding going at the tree nursery site, we didn't have anything, and we really didn't know how to do all the hundreds of things required to take care of dozens of children and young adults, Sime and Gen. The District Controller got us some stuff, mostly government surplus. Some things were useful, like the Nivet Army tents, and the big metal cooking pots, but some things weren't, like the pile of wooden bowls that must have come from the same Pen that still stank after all those years. We ended up burning them for fuel. You really can't keep wooden bowls sanitary.

Late in the spring, the DC sent us a wonderful old renSime man to help us set up the accounting for the Householding and the Sime Center we run. It's important when you run a House and a Sime Center with the same channels to have really good accounting practices so the records are clear and there's no question about the accuracy of selyn purchase and expenditure. Anyhow, this man, and we all soon started calling him Uncle Radek, had set up Householding Sime Centers like this all over Nivet after Unity. He was pretty much retired, but he was delighted to come help us and see a Householding be reborn. He invited some of his friends, other elderly Householders he'd met on his travels, to come visit us, see what we were doing and teach us what we required.

One man who came to help us was a Gen we called Uncle Beni. He was an expert cook and kitchen manager and he loved children, which was a good thing since most of us were children then. He always had great ideas to get around any problem. For example, at first we didn't have enough dishes so we had to eat in shifts, washing the dishes in between. Uncle Beni taught us how to bake these small loaves of bread with a tough crust, and cut them in half and scoop out the middle. Then he'd put stew or beans or whatever we were having for supper in the 'bread bowl', and we'd eat it with the scooped out piece of bread, bowl and all. Everybody could eat together, and no dishes to wash!

All of us came from ordinary junct Sime backgrounds, so we didn't really know much about food. Outside the Householdings, most Simes ate as little as they could get away with, and fed their kids not much different from Pen Gens. So when Uncle Beni started feeding us all these different kinds of food, everybody was really amazed, well, except Sectuib and Sosu Roza, I guess. Mavis too, her family was rich, so they ate well, but they threw her out when she established.

So we were learning to grow herbs and vegetables, and Uncle Beni was teaching us how to cook and eat them. Most of us were learning how to read and write, and for practice, we would write down the recipes as he showed us how to cook them. You wouldn't believe that man's patience, as we kept asking him to repeat himself, and tried to pin him down on how much was 'a little' or 'about this much' or 'as much as it takes' or 'until it looks right'.

One thing Uncle Beni loved to cook with was beans. When he came to us, he brought a lot of different kinds of beans and lentils and peas and such with him, and we grew them out and had pretty good yields for a first-year garden plot. I never knew there were so many different kinds of beans -- some that would break down when you cooked them into a creamy soup, some that would hold together and be good in a stew, some that were good for baking, some that had pretty colors, so you could make a salad out of several kinds together that looked so nice even the Simes past turnover were interested in eating it.

He stayed with us until nearly spring, and showed us how to preserve food by drying it or pickling it, or storing it in heaps of earth or protected from hard frost by piles of straw, and then how to use the preserved food to make things that tasted good even though nothing fresh was growing. Then he got word that his brother was sick, so he wanted to go back to his Householding to be with him. As a going away present, we made a book with all the recipes we had written down, copied out afresh, and Sectuib sent us some colored ink from Konawa so we could illustrate the recipes with colored pictures of the ingredients, and what they looked like growing and what the food looked like being prepared and served, and some funny pictures of us trying to learn how to cook and making all kinds of stupid mistakes and Uncle Beni being patient with us although he must have been ready, sometimes, to tear out what was left of his hair. For the cover, we spelled out 'Uncle Beni's Book of Beans' in pictures of beans of all the different kinds he had brought us. When we gave him the book he started crying and told us he would always think of us as his own children. We told him that whenever we ate all the good kinds of food he had taught us to grow and prepare we would remember him, and we would tell our own children how he helped us bring Teiu back to life, and they would be like his grandchildren.

Uncle Beni died the next fall, even before his sick brother, and we planted a pecan tree for him, just like we planted trees for our pact parents when they died. The tree is growing well, and we can all see it from the windows of the kitchen and refectory and remember him.

Well, that would be the whole story of Uncle Beni and the book, except for Jimi and the printing press. My uncle had a job-lot printing business in Konawa before Unity, but he died before I got to know him, and my mother took on his daughter and raised us together. She tried to keep the printing business going, but she was one of the semijuncts who deteriorated really fast. She was from out-T, and it was hard for her to learn how to live killing Pen Gens, and then when Unity came, and she found out about channel's transfer and that it was too late for her to disjunct, it was just too much for her to bear. I was four years old at Unity and she tried to stay alive to take care of me, but when she saw she wouldn't, she got me and my cousin into a pact family so we would be looked after. She contributed the print shop, and the whole family lived there. Not long before she died we merged with another pact family, and it got pretty crowded, seven children and three adults. She was too sick to work, so we sold off all the print shop equipment we could and lived in the shop area as well as the former living area in back. We didn't sell the main press because nobody wanted it, and we wouldn't get much for it as scrap. We moved it out to the back shed and it sat there for a couple of years, getting rusty and the wooden parts got all warped and cracked and the mice ate the leather and cloth parts. My pact brother Jimi used to go look at it sometimes, and try to figure out how it worked, and he got in trouble once for wasting lamp oil wiping it down so it wouldn't rust more.

By then we had only one adult taking care of us, our pact father Obrom, and he was in bad shape. None of us had grown up yet, and we were having a hard time finding food and money to buy fuel. Obrom was a wheelwright, but he was too sick to work much, and he was very worried what would happen to us. Konawa was full of orphans living on the streets, some of them so run down from hunger and exposure that they were dying of flu and dysentery. He tried to find another pact family to join, but us kids were fairly young, and he was so sick, and all we had to contribute by then was the print shop, and the building was deteriorating because we didn't have money to take care of it, so nobody wanted us to merge with them. So we sold the building and the new owners let us sort of camp out in the shed in back. We were hoping to make the money last until one of us established or changed over. We were hungry all the time. Some of us kids even sneaked into stables and stole the horses' grain. We cooked up this cracked maize and rolled oats even though we knew it would make our guts hurt and give us the runs because the oats still had the hulls on, we were that hungry. It was getting into winter and we were sleeping together in a pile of straw to stay warm.

About then Sectuib came back from Rialite and started working at the Konawa West Sime Center. It always scared us when Obrom went for transfer because we knew he might die there. He had told us that they weren't going to send him to the kill camp again, so we knew he didn't have long to live. Obrom came back from his transfer and told us that there was a new channel there who was very good, and maybe he could live until next summer if she could give him his transfers. So we all hoped that things might work out, since the oldest of us was already twelve natal years.

The next time Obrom came back from the Sime Center he said that Hajene Yilli wanted to meet us, so the next day we cleaned up as best we could, and went to the Sime Center. I wonder what she thought of us. We were really scrawny and our clothes were falling apart. We had washed them but they were still damp when we put them back on. She took us all to the cafeteria and she said we could have as much food as we liked, but not too much at once. So we all had soup and bread and then she took us in back and examined us to see how healthy we were. She told us about the Householding, that it was something like a big pact family, out in the country, and we could stay there until we grew up and then decide if we wanted to stay longer. People would take care of us even if Obrom died before we grew up. She said that if some of us established, she could teach us to give transfer to Obrom, and that would help him stay alive longer without killing. He had sworn to her that he would never kill again. Obrom told us that he wanted us to do it, so we could have a better life now and in the future, whether he lived to see us grow up or not. So we all said we wanted to do it.

Sectuib took us back to the cafeteria and we had some more food, and a few days later we moved to this old Gen parlor she had rented for the pact families to stay in who didn't have any better place. We had plenty to eat and we got some clothes that didn't fit the other kids any more and there were mattresses and blankets and a stove to cook and to heat wash water on, and it just seemed wonderful to us. Some of the young adults who were out at the Householding fixing it up would come back into town and tell us about it, and it sounded wonderful too -- all that space and clean air and trees and things. So we were really happy to move out there, even if we started out sleeping in those old Nivet Army tents and it was a little cold at night.

The first one in our family to change over was my pact brother Feleho, and he turned out to be a Third Order channel. Yenava, from another pact family, who had qualified TN-3 the previous month, gave him his First Transfer, and Obrom had the joy of witnessing it. Obrom died later that summer, unfortunately before Jimi and I established, so we never had a chance to serve him in transfer, although we served some of the other pact parents after Sectuib trained us. Obrom died of kidney failure, and he told us all that he was happy that he wasn't going to die aborting from a kill. Feleho was able to stay with him and ease his death, and the tree we planted for him is the oak at the end of the laneway. We chose an oak because he seemed like such a strong undefeated person to us, who would struggle to the end to protect us, even as his hopeless junctness was destroying him.

Anyhow, I'm way off topic about the bean book and the printing press!

One day Jimi and a couple other naztehrhai went into Konawa to buy some stuff, and when they came back, there was this big thing in the wagon, and it turned out to be the old printing press! Jimi went back to the old print shop and the people there didn't want it and said he could have it if he hauled it away. So they brought it back and put it in the machine shop and Matti said Jimi was crazy, but maybe they could strip it and use some of the parts for other things. Jimi said he always wondered how it worked and wanted to figure it out, and then Matti could use it for scrap.

So it sat in the back for quite a while until Jimi had time to mess around with it. See, the work cycle at the machine shop, before we started making and selling nursery equipment, was that in the fall they'd fix up all our equipment and make sure it was in good shape for spring, and then work would be slack for a while, and Matti would get into his inventions, and then in late winter all the farmers would realize that they weren't going to be able fix all their equipment themselves, and it would get busier through planting and cultivating and haying and harvesting until everybody was run ragged about the time the fall plowing was done, and then they'd get our equipment back in shape and it would get quiet again.

So one winter Jimi started messing around with the press, and he found a brass plate on the bottom that said where it was made in Heartland. Now how something like that got in-T we've never figured out. It's hard to imagine some Licensed Raider hauling it back over the border with him, the Gens shooting at him all the way. But Jimi wrote a nice letter to the manufacturer, in the best Genlan he could manage, asking if he could buy manuals or diagrams or whatever would help him figure out how to fix the press up. Well, a long time later the letter came back unopened, neatly stamped on the front "Refused. Return to Sender." and on the back, someone had written in red ink "God's Curse on All Demon Simes". Jimi was a bit hurt, after all, he wasn't a Sime, demonic or otherwise. Matti said he was a Demon Mechanic, especially if he thought he could get that corroded hulk to work again.

Well, that fall at one of the section head meetings Hajene Tapiu was going on about the poor health of the local Simes, that they weren't going to live any longer than juncts because when they ate at all it was mostly sweets and slop they wouldn't have fed to the Pen Gens. Serri suggested that we invite them to a meal at the Householding after transfer so they could see what good food was like at a time when they would be most able to appreciate it. Sectuib said that was a good idea but it was only one meal. They have to learn to cook for themselves, maybe we should offer cooking classes. Tapiu said if they won't come in for pregnancy, childbirth and baby care classes, it would be a challenge to get them to come in to learn to cook when they don't care if they eat. I suggested we teach them to grow vegetables, since they can sell them to Gens, and maybe they'll get the idea of eating them themselves. Most everybody out here has access to a bit of land if they want it. I figured I should say something since I'm Section Head of edible crops.

So Serri (Section Head of nutrition) said "If they all had Uncle Beni's Bean Book, I bet they'd try some of it". Matti, who had had the sense to stay quiet up to then, said "All we require is getting the Demon Mechanic's printing press going and it would be no problem." Sectuib said "I thought it was a corroded hunk of scrap" and Matti said that was a very complimentary description, since he'd been over it himself and didn't think there was anything salvageable on it, but Jimi loves the shendi-fleckin corroded hunk of scrap nonetheless.

Sectuib got that look on her face, and she gazed out over the pond and the horse pasture, and then she asked Matti if he could do without Jimi in the machine shop for a while. Matti said he could, and was she going to do a number on Jimi to cure him of his printing press obsession? She said she had heard something last time she was in Konawa. There was going to be a tour of the Region for a bunch of out-T manufacturers who wanted to figure out how they could sell stuff in-T, and what we were making in-T that they might want to distribute out-T and they were going to require escorts. If she could get Jimi on the tour, he'd probably have time to look around and see if he could find an old printing press we could buy, or parts for the old one. Because Jimi is a mechanic and speaks pretty good Genlan, albeit with a weird accent since he mostly learned it reading Genlan books on mechanics and engineering, the out-T Gens might be happier to have him around than your average Sime Center Donor who generally wouldn't have much interesting to talk about, from their point of view.

Jimi was really enthusiastic about doing it, so Sectuib gave him a briefing on out-T customs, and what not to say, and what they'd likely say and do that he'd find offensive so he would be prepared and not get upset. It seemed that Sectuib wasn't up on post-Unity out-T Gen offensiveness, though, because these guys had some new things to say. They started calling the Donor escorts 'selyn whores' in Genlan, which confused and offended them, but they liked Jimi a lot, and couldn't believe he was a Donor because he was a 'real man' with calluses on his hands and he knew about how things worked and what to do when they didn't, and he was having the time of his life going to all these factories and workshops with them, and talking to the Gens about what they were doing out-T.

Anyhow, when he told them about the old printing press, and how he was looking for parts for it, or an old one that we could afford to buy, they got interested. Because he wasn't sixteen yet, they still thought of him as a child, and they were fond of him in a fatherly sort of way. Toward the end of the tour a few of them even said that if he wanted to get away from the 'snakes' and not be a slave to them, he could come out-T and work for their companies and they'd fix up the papers so they could hire him even though he was legally a child. He tried to explain to them what he liked about living in-T, and he even made the mistake of telling them that he really liked transfer by explaining that it was a lot like sex and usually even better. Now that got them upset because they have all these weird beliefs about sex out-T, although some of them make more sense if you consider that to them Jimi was still a child. They seemed particularly alarmed that this 'older woman', Sectuib, was 'doing it to him', more than that he was serving semijuncts sometimes. They never did get the concept of simulated transfer, but he finally convinced them that he didn't require rescuing.

About a month after Jimi came back to Teiu, he got a letter, addressed to Jimmy A. Teyo, from one of the Gens on the tour. He lived in the same city the old printing press was built in, and he had gone to the factory and talked to the people there. They weren't making that kind of press any more, but there was a new technology that he thought would be good for us. It was a small machine and they were mostly selling them to places like schools that only had to make a few dozen copies of things. It was a kind of wax-soaked felt or paper, and you wrote on it with a stylus, and that pushed the wax out of the lines you wrote, and then you clamped this sheet on a drum that was covered with ink-soaked felt and the mechanism rolled it over a sheet of paper and the ink went through the lines with no wax and printed onto the paper. All the people on the tour had contributed some money to get Jimi a printing press, and given it to him, and he was going to buy it and a lot of the waxed sheets and ink for us. He said the people who owned the factory were serious Church of the Purity and if we required more supplies or parts or anything, we could write to him and he would get them for us, because they would never deal with anyone in 'Demon Land'. He said he could meet us at the border with the press and Jimi and a few other people went down with a wagon and met him. They invited him back to the Householding, but he said he'd had enough of Simeland for a while.

So we got a printing press, and we made up pages with recipes from Uncle Beni's book, and when we got Simes to come up from the Sime Center and have a meal with us after transfer, we gave them the recipes for the food they ate, and some of them got interested enough that we held some cooking and nutrition and gardening classes for them. Later we published some instruction sheets about how to propagate plants and sent them to the village councils at the waystation villages that we donated nursery stock to, so they could get a head start on the reviving of the Ruined Lands. Our seed company sells plans for some of Matti's inventions like the oil seed press and the potato planter, and we print those on our press too. When we had most of Uncle Beni's recipes printed up, we bound them into a book, and colored the pictures by hand, and sent it to the Gen in Heartland who had gotten the press for us. He wrote back and thanked us, but I don't suppose it did him much good because it was all in Simelan.

Prins ambrov Teiu


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