I didn’t realize when we sold my old freezer what a hole it would leave and I’m not talking about the big space where shiny bright white storage cabinets are now. It was probably time for it to go. My to-be husband had just moved in and we were trying to find room for two homes in one plus the freezer dated back long before energy efficiency was given much though let alone given standards.
And really I didn’t miss it that much at first. We had managed to cram everything in it into the fridge’s freezer so while I saw the hole, I didn’t really feel it until late, late summer. The time of year when you can sense autumn is right around the corner and just like the birds and animals feel it, so do I.
I wonder if most people have this instinct or maybe not. I live in a place that makes it easy to be connected to your food if you so choose to be. While subdivisions have certainly made a dent in it, agricultural land still has a lot of local real estate and if that’s still a disconnect, the farmer’s market gets bigger and bigger every year (to the point that there’s now two in downtown Boise on warm Saturday mornings) filled with produce that was picked fresh in the early hours by growers that have the stained green fingernails to prove it.
It’s certainly no mystery where my instinctual pull comes from. I grew up on a farm and as much as I wanted to be a city kid all those years and ride my bike down sidewalks to my friends’ houses and go to the city swimming pool everyday and have a corner store nearby when allowance money was burning a whole in my pocket, I think then it was a matter of wanting what I didn’t have (as now when I often wish for straight hair over my overactive curls). And when I look back, being a farm kid wasn’t so bad at all (yes mom… I know you’re reading this and that I just admitted that). There’s something super comforting in being self reliant. Knowing that if the power was knocked out for days from the big snow storm I continually prayed for, that we were well prepared.
We raised our own steers and chickens and I seem to remember a random lamb or pig along the way. The shelves in the freezer were lined with crisp white butcher-wrapped packages with the cut of meat stamped in blue. My dad insisted on growing a garden that not only kept the family fed but I swear half of the neighbors too. I learned at a young age to make raspberry freezer jam, blanch vegetables and package them in rectangular boxes, and can peaches and apricots and tall jars of concord grape juice. The bounty of our summer crops would feed us all winter long. Those packed shelves gave me great comfort.
And now I live in the city where garden space is more limited. And I work so time too is more limited. And it’s not like canned vegetables and fruit and jam are expensive. No. If you’re going to preserve your own food, it’s more of an issue of quality, truly knowing where it came from and what’s in it, not to mention a labor of love.
It’s late fall now and there’s a deep down uneasiness when I look at the cabinets where the freezer used to be. But what happens if a big storm hits and we’re housebound for days? My husband reassures me that we’ll be fine (and odds are he’s right since I’ve been hoping for that storm for far longer than I care to admit and it’s never yet happened). But I don’t think I’d sleep at night if I wasn’t staying true to my roots at least a little, so I’ve been drying mint for tea on cold winter nights. A pan of basil is drying in the oven as I type this, filling the house with a lingering smell of summer. I’ve smoked and dried enough fresh jalapeños to spice my and all my friends’ chili this winter. There’s 4 rows of canned peaches that my mom brought over. And what little freezer space I have is jammed with marinara made from truly vine ripened tomatoes.
The one new addition to the supplies this year is oven dried tomatoes thanks to our friends Jay & Krista. We were at their house not long ago when trays where coming out of the oven – fresh tomatoes cut into slices and sprinkled with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and then cooked slowly in a 200°F oven for 5 or 6 hours, stirring occasionally – and I couldn’t stop eating them. They were sweet and caramelized and a little chewy and for short of better description, totally awesome.
So the saying might be true – you can take the girl out of the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl – because I know wherever I am, there’s a little bit of that farm girl in me and I think that’s a real good thing.