1 Comment

Hard FoughtOne day in November, the final canning session for the season was over. Ten quarts of applesauce would have to do, stretching themselves through the winter months for our family of 5. It’s not what I’d hoped for, but it was the best I could do given the circumstances.

The jars watched me from their perch on the kitchen racks, waiting for me to finish the last chore: carrying them down to the basement pantry. I finally relented to their stares, grabbing a random armful of jars on my trips to the laundry room.

As I opened the old slatwood cupboard doors that shield the pantry shelves, I expected to see an empty space. With the start of a full time job this year followed by a midsummer move, this wasn’t my most productive canning season. I had, in fact, been hosting a bit of a pity party about everything I didn’t accomplish this year: jam, tomatoes, pickles (thankfully I was a little overzealous with my Picklepalooza last year), let alone time for trips to the beach and the zoo with my kids, knitting, gardening, my plans for sheep…. sometimes I wonder if my “want to” list will ever live up to my expectations.

But as I reached up to place the jars on the top shelf, I was surprised to see that the cupboard was almost full. Relish, salsa verde, and a surprising amount of peaches. When did that happen?

I scanned the shelves in front of me and the answer came: every jar was hard fought this year.

There were no lazy days meandering the farmers market or afternoons driving to u-pick berry farms on a whim. Rather, I power shopped at the farmers market on my half-hour lunch and hogged the work refrigerator until it was time to go home.

It wasn’t easy. Canning this year made me yearn for the slower days when I had lots of time and little money, when I savored every bite of my day. This year I straddled the fence between the fast lane and the homemaker, gripping tight to the handful of hours in-between to preserve my ideal. Sometimes I thought it would be better to give in, to just buy the damn food and stop trying so hard.

But then what?

But then I would have missed the joy: the memory of pecking our way around the back roads to find the peach farm on our way home from a weekend up north, and later, the warmth of my husband and kids pitching in to help can the fuzzy orbs in the evenings.

Absent would be the pride at the dinner table whenever a jar of jam or salsa was popped open, or the relief on those days when I hadn’t made it to the grocery store yet and could send applesauce to school.

I would have missed out, too, on meeting new farm friends at the farmer’s market, and entertaining co-workers with my armfuls of produce. “What did you buy today, Becky?” was something I looked forward to every Wednesday, as well as passing out the spare cucumber or apple.

I didn’t get to everything on my list this year, but it was more than nothing.

This year was hard. Not bad, just a whole lot of work that hasn’t produced fruit yet. It will, I’m confident, but sometimes when you are in the middle of pursuing a dream, when it’s all work and little reward, it’s easy to lose sight of joy. It pays to take a step back, scan your progress so far, and recognize your progress instead of your missed goals.

You might be surprised at what you see.

If someone you know would enjoy this, please share or tweet:

The moment I got my hands on a copy of Remedy Quarterly I fell in love with the storytelling around food and community that is loaded into every issue. Plus, the artwork and photography are gorgeous. It's a short story collection that makes you want to curl up with and savor every word.

And today I'm head-over-heels excited because, as you may have read in an earlier post, I'm honored to be included as a contributing writer in the latest Issue 16: Change. To celebrate, I'm giving away a copy (a $14.50 value) to my readers as a thank you for all of your encouragement. Your comments always buoy me, and hearing that you've tried cooking up something in the kitchen is even better. Love you all!


You may enter every day, so don't forget to come back tomorrow! Contest ends on November 26 at midnight.

If you aren't a lucky winner (or if you want to, you know, buy several copies), you can purchase your very own Remedy Quarterly here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One of my very favorite finds from getting to know my grandmother Lucie's recipes is this:

The original chart used by my grandmother Lucie, where she kept it taped inside her cupboard door
The original chart used by my grandmother Lucie, where she kept it taped inside her cupboard door

This is so versatile! Five ingredients, used in different ratios, can make four different recipes. Lucie kept her homemade recipe chart taped inside her cupboard door, where I imagine she could quickly glance at the measurements as she made a meal for her family of eight children.

You don't need to buy a box of expensive mix with added anti-caking agents when you can stock your pantry with the basics and go from there.  The possibilities are endless: Strawberry Shortcake (we make if from frozen berries in the winter), Chicken Pot Pie, Biscuits and Gravy, Apple Dumplings.

I've been wanting to share this recipe chart with my readers for a while, and now it's ready, and for FREE. It's my thank-you for stopping by. Please share with a friend if you like, and happy cooking!

Free Dough Recipe Reference Chart
Free printable chart for quick reference to biscuits, shortcake, dumplings, and pie crust