I am beyond thrilled to have my amazing older sister here to guest post today. I have always looked up to Lindsay with a combination of terror/awe. She is fierce, beautiful, funny, accomplished, AND smart. It’s a little overwhelming. A few years ago Lindsay started a food blog which (naturally) became very popular called rosemarried. She has inspired me on a journey towards local and seasonal food, and now I just might have to start down the road of preserving.
I’ve been to a couple of the food swaps my sister has organized and it is absolutely bonkers. Everyone from hipsters to homeschooling Grandmas come and swap food items they have created. You come with 10 jars of jelly and leave with an assortment of delicious, hand-made food. I love how people like my sister are using their creativity to step outside of the food systems that so often crushes those at the bottom of the economic system.
So often, conversations about food can carry underlying assumptions of privilege. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. We can talk about creating and eating good food, all with our global neighbors in mind.
Preservation as Gratitude
Guest post by Lindsay Strannigan
Food preservation – canning, pickling, fermenting, etc – isn’t a new phenomenon, by any stretch of the imagination. Throughout generations, humans have practiced this delicate art. Until recently, however, preserving was often born out of necessity. People preserved food because they had to, due to a variety of reasons: lack of refrigeration, electricity, funds, or fear of famine, storms, and drought.
I am painfully aware of the fact that I do not preserve for such reasons. I do not have these particular worries, and yet, I find myself compelled to can and preserve. There’s something magical in the ritual, in the quiet and tedious process that is preserving. I love that you have to do it the same way every time. There are no shortcuts. You can’t cheat the system. It is what it is, and you have to accept that. When I hover over that giant pot of boiling water – hoping and praying that my jars will seal properly – I take comfort in the knowledge that thousands before me have done the same.
All romanticism aside for a moment, however, and I am still faced with the fact that my reality does not necessitate canning. I do not need to do this in order to survive.
So why do I do it? Why do any of us preserve and can? What is the appeal of canning?
First, let me state the obvious: Canning is hot right now. The internet (I’m lookin’ at you, Pinterest) is brimming with DIY-ers and aspiring home preservers. Food swaps are spreading across the country and bookstores are brimming with an ever-growing selection of canning resources and cookbooks. It’s easy to dismiss this as a fad, as nothing more than a nod to vintage kitsch. I would argue, however, that this goes much, much deeper than kitsch. This isn’t just nostalgia, this is a concerted attempt to reclaim a culture of food and community.
When it comes to food, we are all hopelessly lost. We live in a broken world and food is just one of a myriad of hurdles we are forced to navigate on a daily basis. Every day we are confronted with mixed messages; advertisers bombard us with their messages of health and vitality, beauty and happiness. The truth is, however, that most of us aren’t happy. We are overweight, undernourished, overworked, and underpaid.
In many ways, we aren’t all that different than canners of generations past. We may not fear storms or drought, but we definitely live in uncertain and desperate times. Life is hard and the promise of the American dream has lost it’s golden luster. In times such as these, the art of preserving makes a lot of sense. It’s simple, economical, and empowering. It is a way to regain a small amount of control in a very uncertain world.
There’s something to be said about returning to the roots of food, to the way things used to be. It just makes sense. Canning, pickling, drying, and fermenting are age-old techniques, designed to prevent food spoilage and make the harvest last all year-long. This is a rich and beautiful tradition, and I firmly believe that there is freedom and joy to be found in the process. When we preserve foods, we are forced to think about our relationship with food. We learn about the changing of seasons, sustainability, and the importance of cultural traditions. Food preservation teaches us to be thoughtful about our purchasing. It teaches us how to spend less and waste less.
Mostly, though, I think that preserving is an act of gratitude. As I’ve learned how to can and pickle and ferment, I can’t help but feel grateful. I am so thankful for a God who provides, a God who created seasons, colors, flavors, and everything good and beautiful. He gives so freely, and I feel compelled to treat these gifts with respect and humility. For me, food has always been one of the most tangible and enjoyable ways in which I experience the love and grace of God. Whether it be sharing a meal with family and friends, or canning 100 pounds of tomatoes in the heat of the summer, I feel connected to the Creator.
I would like to step back for a moment, however, and acknowledge that I am speaking from my own personal experience. I live in a place where I have limitless access to a gorgeous array of fresh fruits and vegetables. (I live in Portland, OR, for crying out loud. This is the birthplace of local, sustainable, organic, etc.) I am aware that many people in the United States simply do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Even in areas where fruits and vegetables are plentiful, there are many people who simply cannot afford to purchase seasonal produce.
I understand that there are a myriad of reasons why my case for food preservation may not apply to most of the American public. You may not own a canning pot or mason jars. You may not have the time or energy to learn the process. You may have zero interest in canning, pickling, or fermenting. That’s totally fine. This isn’t for everyone. However, I do think that the principles of food preservation apply to all of us. We ought to treat food as a gift; as something to be celebrated, shared, and saved. We should treat our resources with care and respect. We should strive to be less wasteful. These are principles that all of us can practice, whether or not we choose to make jams or pickles.
However, if you do choose to pickle, preserve, can, and ferment — I highly encourage you to share this knowledge with your family, friends, and anyone else who is willing to listen. These are invaluable and empowering life skills, which will only serve to benefit and enrich future generations. In addition to sharing your knowledge, I would encourage you to share the actual fruits of your labor. (Those 15 jars of blackberry jam that you canned last week? You don’t need all 15 jars.) Do not be tempted to hoard your preserves, rather, give them away. Food is a gift that is meant to be shared, so preserve often and give generously.
My favorite canning website is PunkDomestics.com — it’s a wealth of amazing recipes.Here’s a few pickling/preserving recipes from my blog: