Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

It's not such a big thing now, with more and more people having gardens and preserving their own food, but when I started doing it a little bit before my first child was born in 2002, I had many people question it. Why? You can buy it from the store, you know. Isn't it too much work?
My own mother often wonders why I do this, partly because it is a lot of work, and partly because she remembers her mother telling her it's cheaper and easier to get it at the store. My grandmother had no choice, she had to preserve her own food. She had no car and lived out in the country on very little income. For her, it became drudgery. It was something she had to do if she wanted to eat in the winter. She didn't have any other options, but she made sure to make clear to her daughters that they would be better off buying from the stores and did not pass on any of her knowledge of gardening, butchering, and preserving. She had high hopes for my mother and aunt to go to college, graduate and get good jobs so they could buy what they needed from the stores.
I do this because I want to, and because I can. It isn't drudgery for me. Not at all. I enjoy the whole process, from beginning to end. I love planting the seed, nurturing it and watching it grow, seeing fruit ripen and then plucking it at its' peak. I love doing the prep work it takes to get a tomato ready for canning-- to dunk the tomato in hot water, slipping the skin off, chopping or leaving it whole and placing it in the jars. I enjoy the steam from the water bath and when they're done, hearing that 'ping' from the lids that tells me it sealed.
I wish I could have picked my grandmother's brain; to have the chance to ask her how she did certain things. But she probably wouldn't have shared her knowledge with me. She was tight-lipped about things and often told my mother to "mind her own business" when asked anything.
I had to learn things the hard way, by trial and error, by devouring books and instructions and other people's blogs. I have only recently started to feel comfortable with experimenting, deviating from the recipe to add my own twist, no longer afraid that I'll botch the whole canning process. I feel confident now in my skill to make jams and sauces and I want to take the next step in food preserving. I'm ready to tackle the pressure cooker so I can try preserving other food, like corn and potatoes and meat.
Sure, I could go and buy what I need from the store. But if you have never tasted home-preserved tomatoes or home-made jams, you don't know what you're missing. Before my garden, we used to buy tomatoes year-round, never really tasting the difference from store-bought summer tomatoes to store-bought winter tomatoes. After the garden and we grew our own, and I didn't can my own tomatoes yet, we'd buy tomatoes in winter and wonder why we are wasting our money on tasteless tomatoes? We no longer buy tomatoes in winter anymore, preferring, instead, to eat what I have canned and when we run out, we will (im)patiently wait for our garden-grown tomatoes.
I didn't think I would taste a difference in store-bought potatoes versus home-grown potatoes, but I can! I really can! The same goes for nearly everything I can grow myself versus buy in the store. So after learning all this, how can I ever stop? How can I ever give up the freshest, juiciest, tastiest home-grown or home-preserved foods and go back to buying bland, flavorless, preservative-packed store-bought food?
I'm sure my grandmother is looking down at me, shaking her head at me, while I sweat over a hot stove, boiling hot water for dunking tomatoes in, washing hundreds of jars and lids, while fending off 4 children. Go ahead granny-- shake your head, but I'm not going to stop.


raychelle said...

you go girl!

Gringa-n-Mexico said...

They taste so damn GOOD !!! Of COURSE you do it! And it really is super healthy so hell that's just a bonus.

More people should know that just because something is CONVINIENT, it doesn't make it better.

lady macleod said...

OOOh I totally think it makes a difference if you can make it yourself. Aside from the personal satisfaction (not such a small thing) I think in this day of factory manufactured foodstuffs with things in them we can't pronounce, that the more of your own food you cook the healthier you will be.
I remember taking down the jars from the pantry when I was a girl - the canned tomatoes, pickles, and all other sorts of delicious - nothing like it.
Well done say I!

DJ Kirkby said...

I love doing it too and so does my number 3 son, we spend most of August in the kitchen and out picking and it's FUN!

Unknown said...

Amen sister!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

I totally agree. Wish we could raise more of our food ourselves.

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