Delicious, nourishing, put up, packed in, spicy, colorful, tart, preserved, balance.
I am talking about the pickled carrots Sherri taught us to make and put up in the cold pack, hot water bath method of canning.
Or maybe I’m talking about the weekend itself. The time had weight like the heavy summer air, punctuated with laughs, lessons shared, and a good measure of wine to lubricate the proceedings.
We dispelled the notion of too many cooks in the kitchen, turning out meals on the fly with as little planning as our host could abide. We shopped the farmers market and with very little coordination or menu planning, threw together some amazing meals. Each one showing off our love for heirloom vegetables, our delight in feeding each other.
More than feeding our bellies, which we did with gusto, we fed our whole selves. Writing is a solitary thing. Tough gals forget how rejuvenating the company of others who walk in our shoes can be. How refreshing and vital the belly laughs of shared jokes, the recognition of our foibles revealed by another as her own.
Interesting phrase: Put up can be to preserve food. It can mean to tolerate, to host. We put up with the teasing because it all came from a good place. More, we were put up by our generous host and agent. To say her heart is as big as her house is saying something and not much of a stretch.
Those carrots were packed into ball jars just tight enough that you could turn the jar upside down and none would slide out. And just enough head room at the top is important to let the carrots expand without breaking the seal. We packed in more than I can remember over a couple days. Diving into each others’ lives and stories again and again. Eating, while contemplating the next meal, walking, talking, reading cards, teaching, grilling, canning, shopping, tweeting.
Wow. There’s something magical about a razor sharp wit under a graceful facade. Nothing too interesting about someone outta control or always in control. But someone who knows the dark side, just enough, to appreciate the fun in a scandalous joke, holy jalapeños these girls are wicked fun.
Like the sunset, Virginia said, of the carrots. But man, we have some colorful stories and streaks in us, too. Warm like the yellow carrots, hot scarlet like those purple carrots. Green, evergreen, caring about the people and the land, the sea that nourish us.
Like the brine around the carrots. A little sweet, a little tart. It preserves the food and makes life more enjoyable. What would sweet be without a counterpoint? Who wants to live in a Hallmark card?
I think each of us takes from the weekend something we’ll keep as long as we can. Like the beautiful red, yellow, orange carrots we put up. We’ll hang on to that communion we we felt. We’ll take words and inspiration and support home with us and savor them a while.
Something I learned about the canning process is that the amount of acid is critical to safe food preservation. It’s not something you can muck around with. Get it wrong and you could suffer, even die. But here’s the good part: getting it right isn’t so hard! We have tools and techniques and good teachers like Sherri and Kim. We also have tools, techniques and teachers for the other kind of balance.