MEEKER I As the weekend trips into the high country to see the sight of the fall colors come to an end, spotting a friend’s kitchen counter collection of glass canning jars brought me up short. I felt a little guilty about not continuing an annual tradition. I was even a little wistful about all the years I spent with family and good friends putting up a wide array of summer produce. Most years, the canning jars were filled with peaches and pears. When we discovered that we could get plum tomatoes, (enough for 90 quarts), the time and effort it took to get it all done seemed to double. We did not mind, as the end result got us through the long, cold, winter
Now, for us at least, that tradition has ended. We always loved the finished product, which made it more than worth the effort. The process, starting from the preparation to the end with all that tasty looking fruit spread out on the counters left me feeling accomplished and efficient.
That last word could never have been used to describe any of my efforts at home. While I felt good about my accomplishments in my work, I never felt that way at home. Physical activities hardly ever made me proud, unless I was part of a group effort. I was never offended when my principal wrote on my yearly teaching evaluation that I was “deceptively organized” It was from that point on that I realized it was the perfect description.
During a teaching day, things would seem to fly off the shelves and of the cupboards transforming the classroom’s neat and tidy appearance to a mess. The years I spent working from home, I found that chaos and clutter were a real problem. I did not have enough time to clean everything up before everyone came home. I was a big believer in playing with my children first. So if I was trying to accomplish anything in the kitchen, I made sure I had friends and family pitching in with me.
My best childhood memories brought me back to my grandfather’s kitchen in the fall. He put up two kinds of cherries, apricots, peaches, and pears yearly. He harvested the vegetables from his garden and took me and my siblings out to pick the fruit from a local orchard.
He was a mathematician and civil engineer by training, as well as an excellent baker and cook by choice. He demonstrated how to use a methodical scientific process of food preparation, each time he let us watch him put all of the produce up for the year.
The words to describe that process were the very same I encountered when I moved here.
Want to make a run to the Junction with me to get my peaches. I will be putting ‘em up later if you want to help.”
Even though I am not putting up loads of produce to take out of the cupboard, I have put up enough memories that keep me going through a long, cold winter.
By DOLLY VISCARDI | Special to the Herald Times