Sunday, September 02, 2007

What? You still can?

After church this morning we stopped at the nursing home to visit my Grandma. Grandma will be 97 this year and she has Alzheimer's. She recently had a bout of pneumonia and gave us a scare, she was moved from nursing home to hospital to another hospital and back to the nursing home. As a result of all the moves and probably due to medication changes, she is quite a bit shaken up. She didn't recognize me this morning, but I think her eyesight is failing too.

I gave her a brief rundown on what I've been doing besides working - and she said "What? You still can?" and shook her head. I reminded her of the times I worked with my mother and her to can tomatoes and pickles and pickled beets and pears and apples and freeze corn, and she smiled. I think she does remember those times too.

She said "You've got to change along with the times, I guess." That's a profound statement, coming from her. She was born before women had the right to vote, and before the automobile was commonplace. It was a huge life change for her to move from her large home and garden into assisted living, and from there to the nursing home. She has accepted each step with grace, never complaining, but only praising the people who take care of her now.

So, why do I can? There's lots of practical reasons, such as knowing that the food I am eating was raised without chemicals and didn't travel far from its origin. I'm not too sure about how environmentally sound the practice of home canning is - while the jars are re-used and don't go to a landfill, heating up the water takes a lot of energy. Since I usually only do one canner-ful at a time, I am guessing that a more production-oriented process would probably be more energy efficient. It does take a lot of time. But on the other hand, when I have food in the pantry, I don't spend my time shopping, or travelling to the store, either. It's very satisfying to see all those full jars lined up on the shelf, knowing that even if we have a snowstorm or a power outage, we're not going to starve. And, designing the labels for the jars gives me a mild ego trip, when I see the pleasing graphics and the quotations I add to every label.

But the real reason I continue to can is probably my mother and my grandmother. When I have that big blue granite-ware kettle on the stove, I am transported back to my mother's kitchen. I realized this after a conversation with DH yesterday - a mutual friend of ours is fixing up his late father's old van. There isn't a real reason to do it - the parts are expensive, it's not a collector car, and his mother isn't driving much any more and has another, newer car anyway. I told DH that our friend must miss his father, and working on the car reminds him of his dad. He said, "Is that why I work on my uncle's old tractor?" And of course it is. He misses his uncle. Same with canning. It reminds me of my mother, and my grandmother, and brings me close to them.


GardenGoose said...

I'm the same way..everytime I can something or bake a loaf of bread it brings up strong memories of my grandmother.

Yellow Jacket Ridge Angoras said...

I stuck around a bit longer and this post touched my heart. I used to can, make pickles, homemade fruit's the best.....picked cherries by the hundreds of pounds....always bake pies by scratch and am the caretaker of my Grandma Liedal's secret apple cream pie recipe. My mother took such care making her cut out cookies and painted each one. They were beautiful. Thank you for reminding me .

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