Homesteading

Made the shortcake on a Saturday....gone by Sunday night. Oh, and hooray for cardamom.

There are nine jars of homemade strawberry jam on my counter tonight. Yes, made by yours truly.

The kids and I went to Cottle Strawberry Farm Monday, where I picked two gallons of gorgeous strawberries while the kids played in the fallen fence wire at the edge of the field. Yes.  Last night I capped them all (the berries, not the kids). And this afternoon I made jam.

What is it about picking fresh fruit that is such a superior experience to buying the plastic containers of it at the store? Have I just read too much Michael Pollan? Lived in Alice Waters‘ backyard (Marin County) or locavore-lovin’ Asheville too long? Bought the Earth Fare/Whole Foods propaganda?

Or is there really something to the sensual – yes, very sensual – sensation of stooping down, warm sun on your back, brushing aside the slightly prickly green leaves, watching like a hunter for the bright red of a ripe berry, grasping that beauty just so, and pulling it with just the right blend of tension, strength, and gentleness to claim the fruit as your own, dropping it with a satisfactory plop into your little plastic white bucket…Oh there’s got to be. You know you feel like you’ve earned that produce, by Jove, not had it delivered to you by some sleepy trucker who picked it up 18 days ago in a town 450 miles from you, where it was picked with tired, under-paid migrant hands.

Never mind that it’s God who makes things grow. And strawberries are, in my little world, always a treat, the sweetest taste of summer. (The sugar companion to cucumbers, the other taste of summer.)

And why was I smiling while I stirred boiling crushed strawberries and sugar in a big pot? And carefully grasped hot jars out of another big pot of water, put the fun blue funnel over their mouths, and soup-ladled the jam into the jars? And extended my handy-dandy stick-with-a-magnet into yet another pot of water to retrieve lids and rings? What exactly is so thrilling about that? Except my mother does it. And probably my grandmother did. And how many countless generations of women and men have preserved fruit in almost exactly the same manner for how many countless decades, even centuries?

I almost felt like there was a cloud of witnesses – primarily women – in the kitchen with me today, watching, nodding, maybe furrowing their brow with puzzlement or disapproval, smiling, and definitely giving me a cosmic, maternal, culinary pat on the back. You go, girl. Take that fresh stuff and hold on to it for months. That’s a good homesteader.

The biggest thrill of all – all evening – is that sweet “pop” emitting from the kitchen, letting me know the lids have sealed. All nine of them now. Remember Meg Ryan’s little jump when she heard “You’ve…Got…Mail”? That’s me.

And since when did this homestead-y stuff get to be in vogue (again)? I don’t know. I have a friend who used to be suspicious – and resistant – to homemade things like this, and now she loves it, makes the stuff herself, wants to raise farm animals, for crying out loud. And so do I!

Take that, Betty Friedan.

Actually I think she’d be proud…I feel less, not more, domesticated when I engage in these terrifyingly domestic (re: “women’s work-demeaning”) activities. Just get me to a field of fresh fruit and I’ll need The Man (his centralized gi-normous farm, his under-paid migrant workers, his mass production and mass-marketing of the sweet innocent strawberry, and especially his big fat gas guzzling trucks) less.

Homesteaders unite…just listen to those jelly jars POP.

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Published in: on April 20, 2011 at 3:54 am  Leave a Comment  

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