provide, provide

I live within a community that believes in home-bottled food.  Namely, that it is an unalloyed good, an outward sign of an inner virtue, a mark of those fit to survive.

I am not entirely convinced — having cleaned out a fair share of family pantries full of dusty Mason jars.  Relics to antique summers.  Bottles of grey fruits that survived their bottlers.  Outward signs only of time spent and the passing of same.

There are years I play the grasshopper and do not can a thing.  There are years I only can applesauce — and that only because I have a tree. And sometimes I can only salsa, and only because the peppers are so pretty.

Even in my most provident years, there are some worthy fruits and vegetables that I will never bottle up — i.e. green beans — i.e. pears.  A wonder in their own sphere and in their own season but too much like an over-stayed guest when presented in preserved form.

Most years I am a shame to my bottling neighbors and well-preserved kindred.  Even with my precious smattering of strange jams — rose hip, quince, Japanese plum — it is obvious I am a Ball Book dilettante.

But I do like the devoted attention to the change of seasons when tracking the sequence from apricots, cherries, to peaches, pears, apples.

I like handling the quantities of fruits — fuzzy peaches, bloomy plums, glossy hot peppers.  All those rounded globes of sweetness, all those worlds of varied fragrance.

And it was this community’s pervasive involvement with food in its basic state — the gardens, the fruit trees beside the driveways, the stacks of boxes of Ball jars in the hardware store — this general competence in laying the harvest by  that was one of the things I came here for.

It was to learn to live this way I chose to live here.

Many of my longest friendships here began in the kitchens where I learned to first make applesauce or world’s best salsa.

Many warm September memories I have, many quiet July mornings preserved  by heart now: gathering blueberries, picking peaches, climbing into cherry trees with these friends who were much younger then but just as beautiful as they are now — and our children flickering around the trunks of the trees — so small they once were — calling to us with their ungrown voices.

So I’m putting my bottles of fruit up, lining them up on table and counter like some proud American boast.

But you and I know — I’m only in it for the chance to play with quantities of fruit.  To glut myself with juicy color.  Indulge in the scents of it all, the shapes and weights.  And to do it to public commendation.

And then eat it  all up with a conscious sense of thrifty virtue.


7 thoughts on “provide, provide

  1. I like this little knowledge–arcane now to plenty of people–and I like to be able to choose to do it, one way or another, to figure out what thing, put by now, will make me remember summer and fall when I open a jar in the dark of winter. And I do love the color and scent of it all. And I like admiring your jars there, so: take it, a little commendation from jammer/tomato roaster me.

    (p.s., I love especially making juice from grapes and smelling that heaven all afternoon and evening long.)

  2. “I’m only in it for the chance to play with quantities of fruit. ” My favorite is always grape juice. I only started bottling ten years ago. I’ve only done it four times since then . . . for all the same reasons, but without the amazing photos. It’s worth it just for the photos. Beautiful! And your writing too, as always.

    I was thinking of you yesterday. then you showed up at my blog. How lovely.

    Also, lovely photo in the header of this post: bicycle, bales.

    • I had almost given up checking back — and then I see you slipped two posts in without my noticing. Glad to hear your voice again. My favorite is the grape juice always — and this year grape jam. The tedium of picking out the grapeskins compensated by the fact that you are breathing in the gorgeous smell of warm crushed grapes for as long as it takes.

  3. My oldest son comes home from Brazil in February. He will have been gone for two years. As I put the fresh picked blackberries in the freezer I thought of making a cobbler when he comes home. We will be able to share a taste of Oregon summer.
    provide – preserve – connect

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