The Beauty of the Bounty
by Sandy Grupe Huber, Principal
March 29, 2021
This summer, I watched as the plums ripened on the fruit tree outside my parent’s garden. The warmth of the sun brought a deep purple hue to the fruit and I observed that the changing of the seasons continued as normal. This felt particularly grounding in a year that shook my stability.
My Mom grew up in Oakland during World War II and my engineer grandfather was gone for three years, serving his adopted country in the Aleutian Islands. Mom remembers sitting with her mother, hearing warning sirens and feeling cocooned by darkened windows. She has memories of boarders who worked building battleships to guard the Pacific living in their home, the grate of their boots on the stairs, and sharing their kitchen table and meals. There was a Victory Garden planted in the backyard, and Mom recalls how it fed them. They grew vegetables and fruit trees in harmony with the seasons and collected their bounty which made its way onto the dinner table and into jars stacked neatly in rows in the big pantry. Each can had its own story to tell about the season that harbored it, the water that fed it, the hands that collected it, and those that worked to carefully seal it into the jar for future use.
Among her many areas of brilliance, my Mom has always loved the process of picking and canning. She learned it in part from her Maternal Grandmother, Nana, who lived with her until she was in high school. Nana, originally from Minnesota, canned everything from green beans to peaches and her primary rules in the kitchen were about having fun and staying safe.
This fall I received the gift of my Mother’s time and knowledge of being in the kitchen, and most especially about being in the kitchen as a family. Mom cares a lot about the blackberries and plums, but she cares about each of us much more.
My Mom is not a preacher, but with wisdom and gentleness, she preaches love and sustainability into our caretaking of the harvested bounty. There are enough cookbooks in the world, this is a recipe for togetherness.
This year I had the blessing of canning with my Mom alone, with time to learn her stories. Stirring granola with my daughter Leslie and her partner Kendal while making adjustments to the recipe card using the modern technology of an IPad. Baking, cooling, and frosting cookies with daughter Meredith and eager young tasters, Clara Belle and Evelia Joy. Each experience was unique and beautiful. Four generations in the kitchen, laughing, learning, as we continued cooking and valuing The Bounty.
Here are some takeaways, and a recipe:
- Always move the canning jar to the back of the stove when removing it from the boiling pot of water. On occasion, jars have exploded. Keep it as far from your body as possible.
- Always wear an apron. I had no idea how many fruits would stain your clothes.
- Limit the guests in the kitchen to about four while canning. As in the old, but very true saying, that ‘too many cooks in the kitchen, spoil the broth’.
- Expect canning to take more time than one would expect. Plan at least four hours. Expect to be tired after.
- The experience of slowing down, carving out time, and preparing a project requires effort; however, the benefits of love and learning are greatly rewarding and life-lasting. We cannot pass down what we do not take the time to model. Look for the models around you and ask for them to share their wisdom. I bet they will be happy to pour themselves into you. As you get full, you will be able to share your bounty with others.