When I go to see my grandma I gain a lot of weight
With her dear hands she gives me plate after plate.
She cans the pickles, sweet & dill
She cans the songs of the whippoorwill
And the morning dew and the evening moon
'N' I really got to go see her pretty soon
'Cause these canned goods I buy at the store
Ain't got the summer in them anymore.
There were hot August and September evenings in the kitchen over a hot stove top ‘preserving the harvest’ from the farmer’s market, CSA, and home garden. The gardens are now frozen and farmer’s markets are closed, so I am starting to look at the cupboard (in my case the cupboard is a collection of boxes pushed to a remote corner of the kitchen) with thoughts of how and when to pop open those time capsules - bundles of joy and summer.
The food in those jars is no longer simple sustenance. There is a story in each jar: the place the food was bought or grown, the family or friends who helped, and the weather on that day. It is a splinter of life intersecting with produce in a deeply personal way that food from the grocery store never can never match.
This home food preservation isn’t logical; it doesn’t fit into any mainstream economic theory. I spent seven hours one evening on seven quarts of canned tomato sauce. This was not hard labor throughout the process, but I was mindful of the canning throughout that long summer evening. At any reasonable rate of return on my labor, they were wasted hours that could have been spent creating value in other pursuits. What happened to that core tenant of capitalism: specialization?
This irrationality is one of the reasons that we are still canning at home and more people try it each year. It is seen as old-fashioned, anachronistic. It doesn’t make sense – it is something that you can’t discuss in mixed company or at the office unless you are willing to brave a long explanations and puzzled stares.
“Let me get this straight: you made your own pickles? Out of cucumbers?”
But as you know it is a testament to experimental cooking, the bounty of summer, and your own resourcefulness. It is anti-economic; not necessarily against modern society, but a way of running parallel. It is quiet, messy, and the opposite of fast food.
Now theory ends – you’ve put in the time over your boiling-water canner and it is time to collect on debts and eat that home canned food. Here are some suggestions on how to eat it all; just don’t be shy. That food is for eatin’, not just for lookin’.
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