If it’s Monday…

(Exhibit at the Holzwarth Historic Site, Rocky Mountain National Park)

… it must be laundry day.  Well, maybe not for you, but for me it is definitely laundry day.  The washer and dryer are going, the wind and sun are drying the stuff hung on the line, and I’m trying to fit in other chores in between.  I hope to get out to the garden later today to do some clean-up in the asparagus bed.  We’ve had some rain over the weekend and last night which makes it a good time to pull weeds as the ground is not as hard as concrete, a condition it has been in during most of the month of August when we had very little precipitation.

I have a bone to pick before I get back to the chores.

Over the weekend I was listening to The Splendid Table, a radio show on NPR, while I was prepping tomatoes and peppers for a big pot of vegetarian chili.  There was an interview with a woman, Kim O’Donnel (you can read about her in this article) who, through re-tweeting (on Twitter, of course), sparked what she called a Canvolution and Canning Across America was born.  In the Mission Statement on the website, it states:

Canning Across America (CAA) is a nationwide, ad hoc collective of cooks, gardeners and food lovers committed to the revival of the lost art of “putting by” food. Our goal is to promote safe food preservation and the joys of community building through food. We believe in celebrating the bounty of local and seasonal produce and taking greater control of our food supply. Together, we can.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think this is a fabulous idea.  I love it.  Food preservation is a wonderful thing.  You not only walk away with a sense of accomplishment but you have all of this tasty, delicious, nutritious, and locally grown food put away for the winter months.  I am all for it, and if this sparks a big interest in eating locally and preserving food safely, fantastic!  Kudos to all those involved.

What bothered me was when, during the interview (and I see it is also in the mission statement), Ms. O’Donnel stated they were committed to the revival of the lost art of putting by food.

Lost art??  Since when??  I have been canning (preserving, putting by) food for decades.  Friends have been canning (preserving, putting by) food for decades.  My mother did it.  Visit Hilgert’s Farm Market when they are in full swing and you’ll find hundreds of people who preserve the harvest by canning and freezing.  I suspect a visit to the midwest of the U.S. will turn up thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people who can and freeze and dehydrate and pickle and ferment (sauerkraut is being made now) and find all kinds of ways to preserve their food.  Young people, middle-aged people, old people.  We’ve all been doing it or learning to do it.  Last year I taught my daughter-in-law and youngest son how to can.  I can’t speak for people in other parts of the country but I’m guessing there are still plenty of folks out east, down south, and out west (in other words, people all over the country) who can and freeze.  People I know in Europe and Australia put by food every harvest season.

When did the art of putting by food get lost??

Perhaps it got lost in the cities or out west or, I don’t know.  But it was never lost here.  Those of us who live near where our food is grown, those of us who want to save some money, have long known that buying fresh food in bulk is a good way to go but only if you’re willing to do the work to preserve it in some way.  A bushel of tomatoes for $16 is a great price but not if they are left to rot.  Therefore, you must find a way to preserve them.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I want to wish all of those involved in Canning Across America much success in their canning endeavors and I hope it leads to more and more people buying more and more from their local farmers, or growing their own food, and safely preserving and enjoying the fruits and vegetables of their labors.  I did enjoy the interview.  I am so glad someone is getting the word out about “putting by” food.

10 Comments on “If it’s Monday…”

  1. anhinga says:

    Aw, those in the “fly-over” states don’t count because they don’t get noticed except during elections. Then the coastal elite fly in and have a piece of pie and cup of coffee at the local diner or go to the fair and feel all folksy. I have never canned, but my mother, aunts, grandmothers did. I have preserved fresh food in the freezer during harvest time in SC. You have to remember that NPR contributors often assume they create anything of value. Apparently this extends even to canning. Excuse the negativity. I do listen and subscribe to NPR and enjoy their articles and shows for the most part. Just wish they didn’t feel so darn superior. Sometimes they are talking about “those in the room” and have no idea.

    • Robin says:

      Anhinga: I didn’t find your comments too negative. You’re right. And I like the way you put it (“Sometimes they are talking about “those in the room” and have no idea.”).

  2. jenna says:

    I do as much freezing as possible and no canning. I don’t know how. The reason being, I live in a large city, meaning extra living space is not easily (or inexpensively) found, which means I’ve never had the physical space to store the canned food, or the empty, clean cans in the off season. However, I would, and will, can if and when I have the space, and plenty of my city dwelling friends can, or are learning to as they buy their first homes and such.

    I’m with you on this post – my mother canned, my sister does, my father even canned! (Sauerkraut, horseradish, and other suitably masculine foods…not the peaches, lol).

    Maybe what NPR meant was the whole “putting by” for the entire winter? When supermarkets bursting with produce from other states and continents was not an option?

    Or maybe they’re condescending fools. Sometimes it’s hard to tell with NPR.

    • Robin says:

      Jenna: I think maybe condescending fools but you’re right. It’s hard to tell sometimes with NPR. I love NPR and listen to it a lot, but there are times when I wonder if some of those people ever step outside of the studio.

  3. Bo Mackison says:

    I’ve spent my whole life around women AND men who canned. My grandfather canned vegetable soup while my grandmothers put up the veggies. Even my father and his brothers’ (a total of five) knew how to can — but probably nothing you’d do. They preserved pickled pig’s feet and other such delicacies, because their wives wouldn;t do it. So my German grandmother taught all of them how to can.

    Me, I’ve only done fruits — apples, cherries, peaches, that kind of thing, mostly for pies. So yes, please ask the fly-over staters if they know how to keep food before declaring it a lost art! Ha!

    • Robin says:

      Bo: You and Jenna pointed out something I missed and that is the fact that there are MEN who can as well. My husband does some canning and he is the one who actually taught me how to can! Oddly enough, we’re reversed in that I do the veggies and he does the fruits. Probably because he eats more fruits than I do (whereas veggies are more to my taste most of the time).

      And no, pickled pig’s feet are not on my list of things to can. lol!

  4. OmbudsBen says:

    I heard the same NPR interview (and mentioned it to my wife), but didn’t notice the “lost” bit. My wife cans, but it is the kind of thing my mother would have learned growing up on a farm but probably lost time for, as she went to night school and became a nursing administrator (in Minnesota, still a farming state).

    And I think that’s some of what O’Donnel meant. For the first time in the 1920s, America became more urban than rural. More people lived in cities. So after the depression and WW2, I wonder if the proportion of families who canned declined. I think you have to make more of an effort to can in an urban world, with all its hubbub, than prior generations on the farm did, when it was simply part of life’s fabric, from season to season.

    • Robin says:

      OmbudsBen: Maybe that is some of what she meant. I’m sure the number of families who can (and otherwise preserve food) has declined since the 1920’s. I suspect, though, it is on the rise again with all the local food movements and the economy tanking.

      I used to can when I worked full-time and we lived in Atlanta and Chicago. Not as much as I do now, but I would put by some tomatoes and peppers when I could get a good deal on them. Mostly I would do as Jenna (who commented earlier) does which is freeze some stuff because canning is more difficult to do when you live in a small apartment with no room for storage or all the tools needed for canning.

  5. Kel says:

    OMG – I saw that photo and thought “man, we’d better start a fundraising blog to buy Robin a real washing machine”

    knowing how much you love a line of laundry swinging in the breeze, it was a relief to see the caption 🙂

    • Robin says:

      LOL, Kel! I’m so glad I didn’t have a mouthful of tea when I read your comment this morning.

      Now I’ll have to take a photo of my washer. Just because. 😉

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