When women departed their god-forsaken places in the home to work in factories and maneuver up and down corporate ladders, a most essential culinary art was abandoned—that of canning and preserving.
Just after the invention of the aluminum can, sometime in the early 1970’s, women, in droves, put away their pressure cookers, sharp knives and wide-mouth mason jars for what seemed at the time to be a simpler—more practical way of existence—a new life with the microwave oven, frozen food, television dinners and inexpensive produce.
No longer would ladies tend to Eleanor Roosevelt depression era vegetable gardens—not when food came so conveniently packed and preserved already— not after the invention of hybrid crops—not after spending so much time just to keep food on the table for so many years—not with preservatives that rival the longevity of ancient Egyptian mummies in food on store shelves—it just wasn’t worth the time to do one’s own canning anymore.
Michelle Obama conned half of America into planting vegetable gardens this year—now what will the unemployed, lazy ass citizens of the world’s great bread basket do with so much food rotting like Michelle Obama’s husband’s new healthcare plan?
My grandmother, Esther Taylor, if still alive would know what to do. Perhaps she would have been made the cabbage czar. She continued to grow and preserve most of her own food well into the 1980’s. It was a habit not so easy to abandon after all the hungry mouths had grown and departed from under her wings and roof.
Seven little Taylor mouths ate off the land, year round, thanks to Esther’s canning and food preservation techniques—such as shame all that knowledge was almost lost.
As tasty as it may have been initially for those living in the country to convert mason jars to piggy banks, Esther kept hers washed and fully packed with the food she grew, even though all the kids were gone and she ate so little.
This new modern world with so much food that could be kept for long periods of time seemed to erase all that life was to the red haired girl who spent all her life on farms with hands going in and out of Mason jars. It didn’t take a smart tongue to realize that food canned at home taste better than food canned by machines, and even to this day, it is impossible to find deer meat in a jar– like that Esther preserved!
She considered giving up her garden in the last years of her life, but it was Kosher Dill pickles that kept her pressure cooker singing every August and September—
“I don’t know what kind of seasoning Kosher is,” she to me one afternoon, just as we finished canning several bushels of corn, “but I’ll be God damned if I buy any more of those pickles from the supermarket with the stork on the label—so sour—I don’t care how cheap they are!”