Canning is a pastime that is more nostalgia than practicality for me. Every year we pull out the canner, the jars, the bowls, the food strainer and get to work. These efforts of preserving are not traditions of necessity, but because it helps me remember where I came from.
My mother didn't always can, in fact when the idea was first presented to her, it could have been another language all together. To even consider buying (or growing) large quantities of fruits or vegetables--living off the land, as they say, was foreign. Mom was an outsider. Our family moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia when I was five and began a new way of life. Our senses were filled with new smells: fields of tall grass that became hay, the sweet earthy smell of honeysuckle signaling us that the night air was moving in; the fireflies and moths joining us in our barefoot romps through the yard. We played hide-and-seek until the only lights were those seen through the windows in our houses, warm and welcoming us back home after a day that we wrung out every ounce of energy we had. Crickets and peepers sang us to sleep through the open windows. There was manure's pungent smell, muddy creek water, and the sound of birds calling to each other in the morning. It's not that these things were entirely new, but in the city they were obscured by cars, horns, and sirens. It is this contrast that draws me to places of diversity where differences pepper the mundane. Once I was surrounded by more cement than green grass, walking to my dance class around the corner--But, also a girl who climbed trees and collected helicopter seeds into piles of gold when we played our backyard games--city's cultured and refined and country's wild and free. These little incidentals are patched into a story that has been the making of me-all of me, whole or broken but loved all the way through.
The aroma of apples cooking will always stop me dead in my tracks, Campbell’s tomato soup has been replaced by our own, and peaches and ice cream will always be one of my favorites. If we are what we eat, I want to be homegrown and from the earth the rest of my days.