Ah, the humble baked bean. The warm salvation after a long day. Uni students fork them into their mouths straight out of the tin, parents reach for a tin when they’re too tired to follow a Nigella recipe mid-week. You can eat beans on toast, you can add beans to a fry up. They’re a very versatile – and delicious – snack.
For many, Beanz Meanz Heinz. So much so that us Brits get through a staggering 540m turquoise tins a year. While firmly rooted in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Heinz has become quite the Royal Warranted icon. Beanz, ketchup, mayo. All staples in our stodgy, carb-heavy diets throughout our teens, but never far from reach ever since those hazy days.
So with the much-loved brand turning the ripe old age of 150, it seems only right that they celebrate in style. Sort of like a royal coronation dripping in orange sauce.
The Heinz Beanz Muzeum, located in Covent Garden’s White Space, has all the charm, history and taste one needs for an exhibition based on the most ubiquitous of British kitchen staples.
Take a step through the entrance – an orange balloon arch, like a Beanz gateway to heaven – and you’ll be mouthing “wow!”, “really?”, “no way!” at the wall of 150-years of history. Did you know Beanz was first sold in the UK at posh Fortnum & Mason’s for 9d (£2.15 in today’s coin) in 1901? As a luxury item, no less.
And did you know that The Who’s Roger Daltry claimed to have caught pneumonia after laying in a tub-full of Beanz for their The Who Sell Out album artwork? The Beanz were frozen the night before, so that explains the pneumonia. In case you were wondering.
You’ll also find an 18-carat gold bean nestled on a pillow in a glass container in the Muzeum sort of like the Crown Jewels, and for the inner child in you, a Heinz Beanz slide which lands you in a pool of orange balls. Perfect for anyone whose fantasy is swimming in a can of orange goodness. We know who you are.
Perhaps the only let down is the lack of consumable Beanz on toast. Wouldn’t it be ace to eat the meal of all meals while surrounded by its rich history? Sort of like eating lamb while overlooking a farm, but without the aching guilt.
For many, it’ll be a nostalgic ride remembering school dinners of jacket potato cheese and Beanz, or the simple but so effective teen-staple chips, cheese and Beanz. For others – the under 5’s – it’ll be an intro to the food that’s sure to fuel them for many years to come, whether eaten cold and straight from the tin at Glastonbury or to cover the taste of mum’s burnt casserole.
Sure, the Muzeum won’t be winning Turner Prizes anytime soon, but it’s safe to say it has won the prize of my heart. That’s right, I love Beanz. Even more so than I did when I walked in.