Recently, I had a rare afternoon at home alone while my husband took the kids fishing. I still had most of a flat of strawberries leftover that I had bought early in the morning for making a small batch of jam for a canning class. Sitting in the quiet house, I sat myself in front of the flat and slowly hulled and carefully sorted the berries, enjoying the buzz from their intoxicating aroma. The smallest, most perfect specimens went into a bowl for no-pectin preserves. Larger perfect ones I sliced in half for the dehydrator. The slightly mushy, slightly underripe, or otherwise imperfect but edible went into another bowl for sorbet, cheesecake, and syrup.
It was the first time in a while that I've had some quiet time to myself and I relished every slowed down minute of it. I wouldn't trade being a parent for anything, but I do miss meditative moments spent doing mundane, yet enjoyable tasks like hulling and sorting strawberries. It seems to me my grandmothers and aunts had more time for these things. As I worked, memories from when I was a girl, shelling beans for my Aunt Helen under the shade of a giant oak in front of the Pennsylvania farmhouse where my dad grew up flitted through my mind. I could feel the gentle afternoon breeze, hear the leaves rustle and the 'plunk plunk plunk' of beans in the enamelware bowl. I often find myself transported across tens of years and thousands of miles when I'm working with food, whether in the kitchen or the garden.
I sometimes wonder why I spend the time that I do preparing food. Sure, we save some money, my homemade food tastes better and is more nutritious that store-bought, but I do worry if I'm using my time as wisely as I should. Could I make more money than I save if, for example, if I spent my baking day doing something to generate income? Perhaps. That's the rationale many people use to explain why they don't prepare food at home and I understand it. The truth is, I enjoy the craft of preparing food, how it engages all my senses, evokes deep seated memories, and helps create what I hope will be fond memories for my own children. I feel connected to my faraway family and to those who have passed away, to the earth and its amazing abundance, and to people everywhere, who are, at that very same moment, sorting strawberries or shelling beans.
What is it that you enjoy most about preparing food at home?
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