Patricia A. O'Malley

Social Policy & Programs Consulting

Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice

Random Affairs

December 15, 2021

Mick Jagger and the British Affinity for Baked Beans
History, Economics, Generosity, and Pittsburgh

In June 2015, the Rolling Stones played a concert at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, where the Steelers play.  My husband and I attended, along with a boatloads of other old folks.  Mick Jagger surprised us all with a bit of history, which solved a mystery.

A “full English breakfast” contains several foods which Americans find unusual at breakfast, including baked beans on toast.  I had recently seen a Facebook conversation in which Americans ranted about how “weird and disgusting” that was, and wondered where on Earth it came from.

As he greeted the crowd, Jagger said how glad they all were to be back in Pittsburgh, and to be playing at Heinz Field. When they heard where the concert would be, they learned that the Heinz company headquarters are in Pittsburgh.  He said “We all grew up on Heinz beans and never knew where they came from.  You saved our lives.  Thank you Pittsburgh!”

The Stones, and many other vastly famous rock musicians, were born and grew up in the early days and aftermath of World War II.  The German bombing blitz – from September 1940 to May 1941 – left Britain in shambles.  The blitz destroyed factories, farms, stores, and seaports all over the country.  Farmers couldn’t produce food and stores couldn’t have sold it if they did.  Everyone went hungry, especially the children.

When the United States entered the war in December 1941, they launched a project to help.  Heinz produced and shipped countless cans of beans overseas.  When your country is in shambles and your children are hungry, and all you have to give them is bread and beans, that’s what you give them.  You tell them it’s good.  They’re three years old; they don’t know any better.

And a tradition was born.

The Blitz begins as Germany bombs London

Photo copyright Rolling Stone Magazine

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Patricia A. O'Malley
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