I was not raised to be lazy. But here I am – lazy, laaaazzzzzy. I know this because I made homemade cole slaw over the weekend. Laugh if you will, but my arms got tired using that old box grater. I no longer own a food processor, so I dug around and dug around in the cabinet looking for the old box grater my husband had when we got married. I only had about three-quarters of a head of cabbage – and it was small!
I could not help but remember how many times I had watched my grandparents, pick, cut, peel, chop and can everything they grew in the garden. We did not have a freezer, which meant every morsel was canned. Now if you have never canned anything you must understand what’s involved. First, you must examine the mouth of the jars for any cracks which would prevent them from sealing. Then the jars must be sterilized (and yes, you used the same jars year after year). There were new lids and screw tops which also must be sterilized. Sometime before all this you would have picked, cleaned, chopped and prepared the fruits or vegetables. Then you cook. A mountain of greens becomes a few cooked portions. The corn from dozens of ears of corn are cut off the cob into a much smaller pile of food. The cooked food is portioned off into individual jars. The mouths are wiped clean, then the rubber edged lids and screw tops are put on and each jar loaded into the canner. BIG canning pressure cookers with racks for stacking. Once the heating process is complete, the hot jars are removed. That’s when you start to hear the lids sealing. Pop, pop, pop. My grandmothers would stand back and look at a day’s work and say to themselves and their friends – “Those are beautiful beans!”
They certainly were beautiful. This process filled an entire spring, summer and fall. From tilling the land, buying planting materials, planting the garden, weeding the garden, harvesting the garden, picking, cooking and canning. This all-encompassing process was simply referred to as ‘putting away’ or ‘putting up’. “I put away 45 quarts of the prettiest green beans.” Do you have any idea how much work is involved in 45 quarts of green beans alone? Add in the jams, jellies, applesauce, cooked apples, pickles, peaches, corn, sauerkraut, chow-chow and any other number of ideas and you have in one simple word – survival.
Without the efforts of these strong women, families just would not survive. It took every effort of every person to get a family through. Quarts upon quarts upon quarts of food, preserved for the winter months. Potatoes dug and stored in the cellar. Even sometimes a little wine although I don’t remember anyone ever drinking it much – other than once or twice when my grandfather would go to the cellar and ‘taste’ it. I can remember the smell so clearly – lawdy – it would knock you over.
So here I am, a grown woman raised by some of the strongest women I have ever known. I was tired from chopping cabbage. What a statement.
I want to add something here. I am proud of my niece and nephew as I watch their journey settling in with the land. I love that they garden and they preserve some of their food. It is a wonderful talent to have. I love seeing the photos of what they grow and what they cook. I miss that connection with my surroundings.
Someone said something to me the other day which made me stop and think. He said, “Take Manhattan for example. If the trucks stopped rolling into Manhattan, it would only be a matter of days before the food supply ran out.”
Definitely something to ponder. Sometimes I think maybe we’ve gotten ‘too big for our britches’. And maybe just a little bit lazy. Laaazzzzzy.