When I was at work last year (before my layoff) we got to talking about canning. To my great surprise I found out that several of my co-workers had NO IDEA you could actually can your own fruits and vegetables. I guess it’s shocking because to me the whole idea is so basic and commonplace that it’s hard to imagine NOT knowing or wanting to preserve food.
(Warning: Long post ahead)
Then it made me sad. Well more like “depressed about society” kind of sad. I sincerely feel that food preservation or even the basic knowledge of how to grow your own food should be taught to ALL people. Canning seems to have this weird reputation of being something that only “country folk” or farmers do. One girl said she thought only Amish people still did that kind of thing. In other words, canning is for the not so rich or the very frugal.
But when we really started talking about how you can food at home it was like I was some cool “organic” farmer who had this awesome wealth of garden knowledge. Even my boss was surprised I knew so much. Maybe it’s because those people only knew me from an office environment. I really thrive being at home and in the dirt. I explained everything I could remember and was honest that I hadn’t actually canned anything myself since I was 10 or 12 (and I’ll be 32 this year). Still their awe held. It’s so much work, I told them. You don’t realize just how MUCH work goes into making a jar of green beans or how many tomatoes it takes to make spaghetti sauce.
Really you’ll learn to HATE picking beans and snapping them. You’ll hate the weeds and the potato bugs that destroy your crop. You’ll hate the weather, especially the storms that flatten the sweet corn and the droughts that kill the cucumbers. You’ll hate how hot the kitchen gets in the middle of July.
BUT, and I almost teared up a bit,
but you learn to respect the weather and the soil you’re given. You learn to live with the weeds and know that some years you just won’t have potatoes. You’ll love how colorful all the jars are when they’re neatly stacked and put away. And you’ll feel resourceful and accomplished when you finally carve that last giant pumpkin.
Finally one of my co-workers asked me why I still wanted to do it, even now when I haven’t had the chance or storage room to try it out and when it’s such a long, labor intensive process.
Because, I said, because it feels important. It’s important that we never forget how to do simple, basic, back breaking work. The kind of work that makes you humble and quietly proud. I don’t want to be a “rare” person who knows how to do these things. I want everyone to know how to do it. Self-preservation is as important as your heritage. Once you forget, you lose who you really are in the end.