November 8, 2011 by Sara Kreidler
As I mentioned in my CSA post last night, this week has been rough. We lost a member of our family this week, and it has thrown me for a loop. But it has also made me reflect on a number of things, including food.
A number of friends and family who read my blog have asked, “What are you going to do with all of that food you preserved?” Of course we plan to eat it over the winter and into the spring, and knowing our cooking and eating habits, I’m not at all concerned that we’ve put up more than we can eat.
But there’s another question several people have asked: why bother? Preserving food is a lot of work to be sure, but for us it is well worth it. As I’ve mentioned previously, we take comfort in knowing who grows our food, and what is going into those jars that will feed us in the months to come. For me, there’s also something very comforting about having a well-stocked larder. I am very lucky to have never experienced food insecurity – my mother kept a very well-stocked pantry when we were kids, and we had a home cooked meal every night, even when she worked 12 hour night shifts. But my Gram grew up during the Depression, and I think she, like many others from that era, never got over the feeling of needing to stock up on everything, just in case. I remember when I was little being amazed by Gram’s pantry – it was well stocked and neatly organized, and there was something comforting about that. I think that rubbed off on my mom, and then on me too.
On Saturday night, my grandfather passed away. I came home from the hospital that night and was greeted by Toby and the kids, who hugged me and let me cry. I didn’t think I had an appetite when Toby heated up a plate of the dinner I had missed, but I soon realized that the warmth and smell of that meal was something I needed right then, and it brought me comfort. The next day we packed up a cooler with tomato sauce, ground beef, garlic, onions, fresh herbs, homemade breadcrumbs and spaghetti; baguette, cheese, olives, hummus and tomato jam; assorted veggies from the CSA and a jar of beets for a big salad; freshly baked brownies and a few bottles of wine. We had all of these things on hand, in our larder and fridge and freezer, and were able to grab it and go without really thinking about it. We packed the kids and my brother into the car and off to Gram’s house we went. We spent the day crying and remembering and laughing. And eating. We ate the cheese and bread and tomato jam, the hummus and the olives while Toby went to work cooking a huge pot of meatballs and sauce. Gram dipped hunks of bread in the sauce to test it as it cooked, and it made her smile for a moment. The smell and warmth of the food comforted us, the table brought us together as we remembered happy times with Pap.
Today is Pap’s viewing, and we’re heading to Gram’s house again with sandwich fixings and picnic salads and big jars of dilly beans and pickles. We will all be together again, and we’ll cry and remember and laugh some more, and we’ll eat.
Obviously these particular meals surrounding my Pap’s death were not something I anticipated when Toby and I spent countless hours this summer putting up jar after jar of food. But we did commit our time and energy to canning because we wanted to have lots of good, homemade food on hand to sustain us and comfort us through the winter. The rows and rows of jars currently hanging out in my basement will be the basis of many uneventful weeknight meals, but will also have a role in the memorable meals – holiday dinners, get-togethers with friends, and perhaps some unexpected meals, hopefully more joyful than sad. And that’s why we bother with preserving food and cooking meals – because food sustains us and comforts us and brings us together.