I grew up in the 1950s in Tacoma. My mother was a modern housewife who thanked heaven every day for making her life easier with Betty Crocker cake mixes, Swanson’s TV dinners, Hamburger Helper and store-bought everything.
Of course, since then, our society has evolved to even higher levels with drive-through fast food, take ‘n’ bake pizza and yogurt in a squeeze tube.
In my pre-Rock life, I was as guilty as the next person of eating while driving, calling a donut lunch, ordering MSG-laden Chinese take-out and disregarding the seven-fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-a-day mandate from the surgeon general. Somehow I have survived.
Since I arrived on the Rock five years ago, however, something amazing has taken place. I am treating food like my grandparents did.
When I was a boy, I would go to Grandma Esther’s house on pickle-canning day and eat so many of her fresh dill pickles I sometimes got sick. But they were so good.
On tomato canning day, I would pick the tomatoes from my grandfather’s 10-by-20–foot garden beside his garage and lug them into the kitchen for her. Grandma would be sterilizing the Mason jars.
“Put them in the sink,” she’d order. “Pull the stems and make sure they’re washed.”
I would watch her scald the tomatoes, peel them and gently shove them into the jars with some salty water.
Then the jars would go into the boiling water to seal, and then finally they’d go down into her cellar to be consumed in the dark of wintertime.
Grandma Esther always called it “time to put up.” And that’s just what I have been doing for the past month.
This summer has been sunny and absolutely perfect for my garden. My corn is not as high as an elephant’s eye, but it’s higher than it’s ever been.
I am overflowing with cucumbers and zucchini.
The Walla Walla onions are enormous.
I harvested more than 100 pounds of potatoes — for the cognoscenti, they’re Chieftain reds and Yukon golds.
Even the tomatoes are big this year, which is nothing short of a miracle on the Rock, and there are lots of them.
I may try to make fresh pasta sauce.
I froze enough Gravenstein apples to make 10 pies and made apple butter out of the rest. The crabapple harvest was small but enough to make five jars of jelly, which is a most remarkable crimson color. I put up several pints of green beans. And did I mention the 10 jars of pickled beets?
Then, of course, there are the eight quarts of dill pickles I just put up. And our friend Charlene gave us her Grandma Larsen’s recipe for bread-and-butter pickles, so we have half a dozen pints of those.
Next up: What to do with the pears. Freeze? Can? Dehydrate? Then it’s on to the corn and pumpkins.
I acknowledge that I still enjoy an occasional fast-food meal.
And I still buy Chinese takeout (hold the MSG), and Papa Murphy’s does make a great take ‘n’ bake. I don’t feel a bit guilty. Once in a blue moon, my grandparents ate out too.
But our pantry is becoming so full of my home-canned things that, should Armageddon happen — as it appears it may — I am relieved that we won’t starve.
There’s just so much stuff to put up with when you live on the Rock.