Growing up we had a plum tree. I think it sat fallow for several summer and then one year, ka-bam, we had plums coming out of our ears. I remember paper grocery bags full of them. I remember taking them to church and giving them away. I remember my mother foisting them off onto to friends. I remember loads of them going bad while sitting on the ground around the base of the tree.
My mother also made jam with them. Being a woman of her generation, a bit closer to the farm than we are, this was no big deal. As a child I remember it as a monstrous process that took hours upon hours to complete. I cooking the syrupy sweet thick fruit and sugar concoction for hours on end. I remember my mother talking about being nervous as to whether it would set, and all these discussions about something called pectin. I remember the colossal water bath, the strange wire contraption that held the jars in place while you boiled them to make them clean and safe. I remember the heat of the kitchen while my mother and I were completing this massive undertaking. For years the cupboard in our laundry room was full of huge quart jars of this plum jam. I remember wondering when they would end and we could actually buy jam, strawberry or even plain old grape. To this day when someone puts a jar of plum jam on the table I think, ‘why, why would you buy that?’ Not that I don’t like it or that I won’t eat it, just that much familiarity bred a lot of contempt.
Coming back to the US one of the ways that I wanted to use our overabundance of resources wisely was to cook seasonally and as locally as I possibly can. So when my friend Janel told me that she could get a box of peaches for me for twelve dollars I jumped at the chance. I asked my mother in law if she would like them as well, and she got excited and started talking about making marmalade back in Phoenix for Christmas presents, until she discovered that Americans don’t like marmalade. So we got two boxes of fresh Colorado grown peaches.
On Wednesday, we made jam. I was a bit nervous remembering the huge amount of work that had invaded my childhood. Miriam (mother in law) had to run into town in the morning so I put the baby down for her nap and started peeling peaches. It took me about fifteen minutes to peel and chop enough for one batch of jam. I thought I would help Miriam out and peel six cups for her. She came home and was confused that I had peeled some for her, we straightened it out she thanked me, quite surprised and then proceeding to make jam and peel more peaches. She ran circles around me in the kitchen. Circles. Great big sprinting laps. I would be carefully peeling, trying to save enough fruit on the peel, would look over my shoulder and she had a mountain, a mountain.
In a matter of about three hours Miriam had made then jars of spiced peach jam, I had made four jars of peach ginger chutney and four jars of spiced peach jam. I stood there surveyed the rest of the mess that needed our cleaning and said,
“Well that wasn’t so bad, actually quite easy.”
Miriam nodded and continued to run circles around me during the cleanup. Apparently youth is not only reserved for the young…