From the ages of ten to sixteen, my parents sent me on séjours linguistiques (“linguistic stays”) abroad each summer. The idea was to spend two to three weeks living with a family in an English- or German-speaking country and immerse myself in the culture and the language. It did tremendously improve my language skills and was also, to put it mildly, a definite character-building experience: I was miserable, but I learned to put up with it.
This fascinating tidbit of personal history helps explain the special place Heinz Baked Beans have in my heart and on my palate: on one of these stays in England, I stayed with a family in which the girl, though my age, could not have had less in common with me. Her number one interest was boys; I was bookish and quiet. She had a brand new curvaceous body to try out; I still looked like a ten-year-old. With glasses. There was, consequently, little communication to be had between the two of us, but I learned my fair share of slang and swear words, and I also learned to fight in a foreign language. Add that to the “useful skills developed” list.