Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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My Florida: Rockets and Shuttles and Launch Day Beans

July 8th, 2011 · No Comments

Discovery Shuttle on the pad - ready to launch

All of the Boomers can tell you where they were when they watched Neil Armstrong take the first moon walk. All of us Floridians can tell you where we were when learned of – or saw – the Challenger’s disaster. Even from West Palm Beach, its split contrails signaled something was amiss; those of us at The Palm Beach Post watching from the parking lot or roof of the building knew this, having seen so many go up successfully.

I’m driving up in a few minutes to watch the last shuttle launch (if weather permits). It’s a matter of pride for Florida to have had the launches at our very own Cape Canaveral.

For years, friends of mine lived in Cocoa Beach – everyone who lived there knew someone who worked on “Cape” so could get to see early launches through the passes they handed out. Both Challenger and 911 changed that.

NASA ran an online lottery to give out tickets to those wanting a closer view, but even across the water from the Cape where most of the million people who are expected are to watch, the launch is still impressive enough. The ground shakes, the noise rolls across the water and there’s a tremendous pride in seeing it soar upward, turn and drop the boosters. Read my friend Ken Steinhoff’s account of the last launch I attended.

A food tradition: Launch day beans

NASA archives photo shows Norm Carlson dishing up post-launch beans /NASA.gov

I know the “other” food angle, too – the one other than Tang (which went up with John Glenn). It’s all about Launch Day Beans.

Seems the test director of early launches, Norm Carlson, brought in a Crockpot of beans cooked with ham with some cornbread to share for a post-launch pot-luck. This was after the first shuttle launch on April 12, 1981. These were served in the Kennedy Space Center “firing room.”

They were gone in no time. For the next launch, Carlson brought in two Crockpots full of beans. The number of Crockpots continued to grow with each launch, till he got wise and bought an 18-quart Crockpot just for Launch-day beans and moved the feast to the floor above.

After he retired, NASA personnel took over the tradition, and according to the archives, no less than 60 gallons of beans are prepared for the engineers and staffers handling the launches today.

To salute the last launch, here’s the recipe for Norm Carlson’s Space (Launch) Beans that NASA provides. Godspeed, Atlantis!

Norm Carlson’s Space Beans Recipe

  • 6 pounds Great Northern dried beans
    10 pounds ham cut into cubes, plus ham bones
    3 pounds chopped onions
    2 stalks celery
    1/2 shaker lemon pepper
    1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

Cover with water in an 18-quart electric cooker and cook 8-12 hours.

(Recipe courtesy KSC website.)

Tags: Florida! · Recipes · Recipes: What's Cooking!

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