Home, Grown

I made carrot cake jam today, and then I went on my social media networks and asked myself this:

“Why oh why do 6 jars of homemade jam sitting on the countertop make me so darned happy?”

Seriously, why?

Why do I feel so accomplished, like I’ve really done something, somethingsomething, when all I’ve done is shred some carrots, chop some pears, measure some spices, apply some heat, use a timer, and follow written directions?

Why are the 6 jars of carrot-cake-batter-y looking goodness sitting on the counter something to make me so pleased?

Why do I get a thrill when Jim comes up from the basement with a jar of homemade pickles?

Jim says it’s because I value “old knowledge.” Which could be the reason, because I did major in Classical Languages in college. Latin and canning — two things most people don’t know how to do anymore. He also says it could be because canning is sort of subversive, sort of cutting edge, and sort of old school all at once. And I guess because I’m sort of all those things?

Meghan and I have frequently discussed that among our generation — the late-20-somethings and early-30-somethings — there is a resurgence in home canning, bread baking, gardening, local foods, CSAs and farm shares as a result of heightened environmental awareness during our formative years. We’ve simply been exposed to it longer, and sooner, than the late-30-somethings.

The term “greenwashing” was first coined in 1986. The Slow Food Movement also began in 1986. Captain Planet ran from 1990-1992 (my ages 6 to 8). The Land at EPCOT, opened in 1982, two years before I was born, is a 2.5 million square foot facility “dedicated to human interaction with the land itself.” The Land has undergone a few facelifts in the last few decades, but the central tenet has remained the same. The “Living with the Land” attraction has remained basically the same since 1993. Twenty years! Nearly two-thirds of my life!

So what did I do before writing this post? I googled the question.

And I found “Zombies vs. The Joy of Canning: Motivation in the Productive Home” by Erica at NWEdible. Go read it, I’ll wait – she’s hilarious. She goes more in-depth in to the gardening/urban homesteading side in her discussion, but she still strikes near to what I believe is the heart of the issue. At least, for me. Especially down toward the end, which I’ll quote here if you don’t want to read her whole post:

Right now, we do have a choice – those #10 cans of tomatoes are cheap and easy to buy. Those pears from Argentina are available in June. That feedlot ground beef is on special for $2.49-a pound. McDonalds is on the way and Hot Pockets and Lean Cuisines are in the freezer section.

So why go to all that trouble? Why not run out and grab a can of crushed tomatoes and a jar of jam right alongside the Lean Cuisines and Hot Pockets?

Why?

Because I have a pantry that reflects a summer spent in relaxing work and joyful creation.

Because cooking dinner makes me proud.

Because the food is delicious.

Because this kind of work makes me happy.

That’s why. And that’s enough.

This is why I support my friend Amber at the Farm School, why I’m in love with the local apple orchard, why my Valentine’s Day present was a half-share summer CSA from a local farm. It’s why I’m excited to find a local source for my eggs at this year’s farmers market.

It’s why I want to get my own tomato plants in this year, why I planted blueberries, why there’s an old kitchen cabinet in the basement (next to the auxiliary freezer) filled to the gills with canning supplies and groaning with canned goods.

Because I can open a jar of my own early-September apples during a February blizzard. Or October cranberries in May.

Because I like knowing what’s in my food, what I’m feeding myself, my husband, and my growing little daughter, though she isn’t even HERE yet: jams, sauces, and pickles I made; animals husbanded and eggs raised by my friend; fruit and vegetables from nearby farm families.

Because this kind of work makes me happy.

That’s why. And that’s enough.

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