My kitchen is finally clean. Canning supplies are put away. I scrubbed off the little sticky tomato slivers in the crevices of the stove and glue-like kernels of corn that were stuck on the underside of the counter like bubble gum under a school desk. Jars are labeled, organized and looking rather beautiful.
I am the female version of hunter-gatherer-stick-it-in-a-jar — especially these days. When the price of groceries started inching up, I just couldn’t ride along. Pushing my cart through the aisles having spontaneous heart attacks, I bypassed most things I needed. And I don’t know why, but every cart I chose had wobbly wheels, usually with a loud squeak, too.
I was determined to figure out another way to make ends meet. So, my lonely handful of food items wobbled and squeaked their way to the checkout. I was taking a stand. I was pumped. I would be the homestead food preservation queen.
Figuring that rice would be a frugal, frequent staple because it is relatively inexpensive, I felt I was right on track — until one night my beloved sheepishly asked, “Are we going to have rice with something every night?” Maybe I carried the rice a little too far. Never mind, forget rice. I would preserve our way to delicious meals all winter long. Can you hear the echoing, powerful excitement in my voice?
Boy, did I too! I froze, dried, jammed, jellied, sauced, buttered, juiced, syruped, sliced, diced, pureed, snapped and canned everything from the petals of violet flowers to veggies, to soups, to anything I could imagine that would be edible. I mastered making crackers from the pulp from fruits and vegetables.
All summer, the hours of processing left me, most nights, too tired to cook much. So, it was grilled cheese and a plentiful spread from the garden. Did you catch the irony?
Here we are, nearing the season of celebrated bounty, and my pantry runneth over. And I’m thinking of single moms, elderly on fixed incomes and young families — those stretched beyond unraveling thin just to put a decent meal on the table, or those who would simply appreciate some home-canned goodies.
God, give me a heart for the shelves of others, not just the ones in my own household. I wonder if their carts wobble up to the checkout with a handful of items, not because they refuse to pay so much for food, but because they don’t have a choice. I’m certain some of my stash should be put into baskets, and I’m certain my beloved could stand a few more “rice nights.”
McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.