Beans and Oligosaccharides: A Culinary Aid to Social Distancing

(Note: click here to see the answers to the Linguistic Equation puzzles from the previous Andy’s Corner)

Beans blazing saddles

Ann begins this week’s blog by deriding canned beans, even though she concedes that beans may be healthy, cheap, quick, easy, and always on hand.  And, she admits that canned beans may be the perfect solution to multi-meals during this coronavirus time.

What she fails to note is that beyond all of those benefits, beans are a no brainer for encouraging social distancing.  It all has to do with oligosaccharides.

boston baked beans cartoon

Before getting into the technical nitty gritty about beans, oligosaccharides, and social distancing, I need to tell you about my childhood understanding of beans.

I’m not exactly sure when I first heard this ditty, but it has influenced my perception of beans for almost as long as I can remember.  I recall admiring the penmanship of the anonymous grammar schooler who wrote it on a school bathroom stall door:

Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel.
So let’s have beans with every meal.

A little research on the web informed me that this “poetry” was much more far flung than my limited memories from Richard Gird Elementary School in Chino, CA.  Evidently this children’s song about beans and flatulence was widely known in playgrounds across the country (and other countries) for many years.

eat beans poster

When I shared this tidbit of information with Ann, she confessed to have never heard of the “beans, beans” poem while growing up, amplifying my concern that there may be a much deeper cultural divide between her and me than I had suspected.  Was it class-related, a gender difference, or just that people who grew up in Colorado never had to deal with flatulence?  Actually, everyone passes gas between 13 and 21 times a day (amazing what one can learn on line) so I had to reject the growing-up-in-Colorado hypothesis.

It is also interesting to know that, according to our kids, in our household unintended episodes of flatulence (and they always had to be unintended!) were referred to as “firecrackers,” not toots or, heaven forbid, farts.

I had never heard “firecrackers” used in this way until I met Ann, so it is pretty clear who in the family prevailed in defining how we referred to such unmentionable bodily functions.

All of this got me wondering about how many terms can there be that refer to flatulence.  Turns out that there are more than you can imagine.  For example, the Huffington Post found 150 words for fart.  Go here to see if your favorite is included.

But enough on semantics.  It’s time we get back to the technical nitty gritty about beans, oligosaccharides, and social distancing.


There are lots of theories out there.

The thing about beans is that they have high amounts of oligosaccharides, a particular sugar that the human body can not break down fully and that turns to gas (carbon dioxide and hydrogen) in the lower intestines and then is expelled from the body as flatulence.

There are tons of suggestions out there about how to mitigate the flatulence producing properties of beans. But, as the L.A. Times food editor, Russ Parsons, wrote in  2014, regardless how you prepare beans they produce flatulence.  However, he did go on to say that “the surest cure for flatulence caused by beans is eating more beans” which seems counterintuitive to the “beans, beans” ditty claiming that the more you eat the more you toot.

blazing saddles f scene2

Click on the picture to view the famous Blazing Saddles bean scene.  Unfortunately it does not provide much support my argument that beans can facilitate social distancing.

Regardless of the “cure,” it is important to keep in mind that in our culture when we are in the proximity of others we try very hard to avoid episodes of expelled gas (especially audible ones) .  One way to do this is to maintain a reasonable distance between ourselves and others who potentially may hear or (heaven forbid) smell our gaseous releases.

Hence, it seems logical to assume that a steady diet of beans during this crisis will initially lead to greater social distancing.  Whether or not that means that masks will be replaced with clothespins remains open to debate.



  1. Bob Owen says:

    Nothing like having a professor write a paper on beans, farts, and social distancing. For what it’s worth, I remember that poem too, and have no idea when I learned it.


    • theRaggedys says:

      It’s amazing how many folks have heard this poem. I have to tell you that I have been holding back on the urge to wax sociological in Andy’s Corner. Good for everyone that Ann frowns on academic jargonese in our blog.


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