Vancouver yields wonderful stories of family bonds forged in the kitchen

 

A common thread ran through many of the entries to our jam porn contest: the tale of childhood wonder as parents and grandparents turned raw foods into stacks of glistening, steaming jars. These experiences and memories, as well as the expertise that has been handed down, demonstrate a bond between generations, and family recipes are as cherished as grandmothers’ rings and wedding photos. 

 

And the winner of the MOV prize pack is…

Congratulations to senoritaJen who managed to bottle the youthful wonderment of watching her mother turn peaches into gold.

 

Kitchen Alchemy

When I was a child, canning seemed as intimidating and thrilling as alchemy. The huge enamel canner was an imposing sight, as it took up most of space on the stovetop and emitted billowing clouds of hot steam. It was remarkable to me that my mother and I could produce something that was sealed in glass jars and looked like it could have come from the store.

It was my task to peel the peaches, which I did while perched on a sturdy kitchen chair, letting the fuzzy skins drop into a large orange mixing bowl. Then later I would observe from a safe distance as my mother fearlessly retrieved the filled jars from the boiling cauldron. We would get such satisfaction at the end of the afternoon, proudly surveying all our mason jars lined up in neat rows on the table, with the sun streaming through the window and turning the peaches into gold.

 

Label your jars, and your stories

A number of the stories that came in were anonymous. The following story gets an honourable mention for tugging on my heartstrings and really encapsulating the jamming legacy. All it lacked was an author’s name.

 

Baby food

My mother in law passed away in 2002 not quite a year before her oldest son and I were married. Her house, with its attic rooms and earth-smelling basement, was filled to its Victorian eaves with....stuff. Over fifty years of it overflowed from every shelf, closet, drawer and bookcase. Letters and pictures from people my husband never even knew. Portraits of long dead ancestors, staring down sternly from crumbling frames, preserved precariously in the only home my husband ever knew. Hidden on a basement shelf under the stairs, my husband found jars of Bitter Orange Marmalade, his mother's well-loved specialty, and two of the jars dated back to 1969.

The rusted lid took a minute to scratch open but when it finally gave it was clear that a moment in time had been preserved perfectly. The seal was miraculously intact and beneath the waxy layer marmalade from the year of my husband's birth was waiting. The thin peel my mother in-law spent meticulous hours slicing was suspended perfectly within the amber-coloured jelly. This....was life preserved in a jar. No picture in an album could have represented my mother-in-law any better. This smell of orange peel and sugar must have permeated through that old house that year and mingled with the gurgle of my husband's baby self, merged with the happy days ahead of childhood and beyond. A single moment in time....preserved.

 

Thanks to all those who entered. Keep on jamming. And remember to check out the Home Grown exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver.