I think I owe an explanation to someone -- I'm just not sure who. It has to do with my addiction.
A Facebook posting went out recently of a picture of me standing in my kitchen behind a counter loaded with about 150 jars of home bottled stuff--my weekend's work. The photo caption said something like, "My Mom needs intervention. Does anyone know if there's a Bottler's Anonymous or Can-Anon out there?"
My response to that is: Are you kidding me? I don't have time to sit around yakking at some meeting right now when there are still peaches on my tree and empty jars in my kitchen.
Seriously, though ... Lots of people responded to the posting with kind thoughts like "Way to go!", etc. But a disturbing number of others, both online and in real life, have responded by apologetically explaining why my habit is not theirs, usually adding that they wish it was.
So I have to go on record to explain why I do this, hopefully removing the troubling stigma that bottlers are productive and accomplished and somehow have their lives more together. (Oh, if you could only see my kitchen right now.) I can't speak for others who squish food into jars, but for me, it's mostly just a cheap form of therapy.
When I'm bottling, I get into my zone. The peaches go into the blanch water, they come out of the blanch water. They go into the cold water, they come out of the cold water. I slip off the skins, slice them, pop out the pit, and slide them into jars. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
During all that repetition, I think. I ponder. I mentally solve the world's problems. I try to figure out how to get rid of flabby upper arms. I dream up ways to use leftover peaches. I resolve to be a better mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter, grandmother, employee, etc. I try to recall words to an old song from decades ago. I finally remember where I put the stapler. My mind just kind of wanders around, and I'm really glad to let it.
In my zone I do the same thing that others do when they create whatever it is they create. My kind of therapy happens to have a by-product. Many do. And there's a reason why we generally don't hang on to that by-product. When we sew the quilt, bead the necklace, scrapbook the page, carve the wood, paint the picture, or do whatever it is we do, we usually give it away. In fact, it would be odd if we kept all the things we make. Oh, sure, we like the satisfaction of seeing someone else enjoy our labors, but subconsciously we also want to create the void that says, Do it again. That's how we justify repeating the habit.
There's also a selfish reason I bottle. Very little of what I do stays done. I wash laundry -- it gets dirty. I cook food -- it gets eaten. I clean a room -- it gets messed up. I scrub a toilet, do the dishes, sweep a floor, and the next day I do it all over again. But when I bottle stuff, I actually have to write the date it was bottled on the lid of the jar because that bottle of yummy goodness might sit on a shelf too long if I don't keep track of it. Too long! Nothing else I do even remotely approaches that kind of shelf life.
And finally, the best reason of all: it's a family habit. I don't do all my bottling alone. Sometimes I get together with my kids and their kids and we creatively make a royal mess of whomever's kitchen we're in at the time. One day it's 39 jars of salsa, with all the ingredients coming from our collective gardens. Another day it's an assembly line of peaches. We snip beans together, juice out plums together, make jelly together, and squish tomatoes into jars standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the sink.
My addiction has become a family habit. And I'm OK with that. It's the kind of addiction that should become generational.
Because we're preserving more than just food.
You can contact D. Louise Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org