Boy, I’ve been working hard! I’m spending all my spare moments storing food for the winter. All the apples, pears, plums and quinces from the allotment, the runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes, onions, beetroots, and other people’s windfalls too, as well as foraged berries, are being wrapped, chopped, boiled, pickled, jammed, brewed, frozen and stored away for the winter months. Why? Perhaps because it’s been an abundant harvest, perhaps because I’ve reached a new level of competence/obsession. It’s extreme.
As I spend yet another evening with my face over splattering vats of vinegar, I often ask myself whether it’s worth it. I can pop down to the shops and buy this stuff, for not much more than it costs me. Certainly, if you build in my time, it’s not worth it at all. So what’s it about? Part of me wants to develop skills that I feel we’re going to need some time soon. Part of me is almost invoking the spirit of my pre-supermarket forebears, who had to do this to alleviate winter food boredom, and I can also feel their joy and gratitude for the food that sustains our lives.
But mainly, increasingly, I want to preserve food for its own sake. As we live more and more from the food I grow on the allotment I can feel in advance the taste of sunshine in the autumn raspberries taken from the freezer in February. I can taste the summer echo in my tomato pickle eaten with a root stew in March. The damson jam will be brilliant on hot toast on a cold day. And of course some of it will go as presents.
Really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Next year I’ll just have to make sure I set aside time in September to focus on preserving, just as I prioritized vegetable growing in March and April this year and bees in May and June.
Such deep pleasure, even just in anticipation! Is it possible that by simplifying we are inviting more abundance and happiness? It’s all a great mystery.
Pic by MG Montoya