It was a hot day, perfect for a rodeo and an ice cream cone. We were not where logic would say “set up a booth selling canning supplies” but we did it anyway. So passionate are we about teaching others to become self-sufficient, that a small town rodeo in Montana was as good of a spot as any, next to the lady selling homemade jewelry and across from the Amish ice cream stand (who doesn’t like Amish ice cream?). It was not our first rodeo, so to speak, and we had heard this particular comment before. For some reason I think it was one too many times and it put us over the edge:
“Why should I bother preserving food? There’s a grocery store down the road.”
I could go through all of our various responses and angles with you, but I will save my breath. It comes down to this: in the world of modernization and a just-in-time food transit system, in the world of prepackaged everything and of calorie-counting, is there a place for kitchen self-sufficiency? Is it just a nice hobby? Something to fill a weekend? Is it nostalgic, reminding you of a bygone era? Or is there a greater purpose?
We recently asked our favorite people (you!) to fill our inbox with pictures of your own food preservation and canning efforts. I had an unexpected blessing from the experience. Your pictures and words of encouragement erased the years of negativity we have received from people who just don’t get it. You get it, and you shared it with us. That is an honor that we bear respectfully, thank you. You have edified us more than you know.
We saw pictures from first-time canners, and from those who do not remember life before “putting up” the harvest. We saw super-fancy recipes (like Erika’s kiwi jam and David’s grapefruit cardamom rhubarb jam) that I have never even considered, and we saw the everyday comfort foods that families relish all across America. We saw children helping, Dads taste-testing, and moms in their aprons leaning over a steamy stovetop.
We saw friends gathered around outdoor canners in a group effort when the fishing nets came in.
We saw jars lining shelves and floors and cupboards to prepare the family for whatever life throws at them.
We saw beautiful smiles, healthy children, and nourished families. We saw America, not what makes the news, not what grabs the headline. We saw real people doing the best they can with fixed incomes and shrinking food budgets. We saw a quiet strength required for the perseverance of harder times.
We saw the pride of a job well done. We heard the sigh of relief from those who were scared to try, but tried anyway—and succeeded. We saw the dreams and hopes of young families working towards the common goal of healthy eating and of self-sufficiency. Sure, they aren’t there yet they tell us, but they are getting closer. And they shared that with us.
I wish I could share every picture with you, along with a plate of homemade cookies and a tall glass of fresh milk, and we could look at them together like a family sharing a photo album. Ultimately, isn’t that what we are in some distant way? Aren’t we all brought together by our ideals for a better world, our goals for a healthy and strong family, and by food?
Catch the official winning photo announcement next week!