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  • Today I made pickles. Spiced, pickled runner beans, to eat for as long as they last with cheese or lamb or even hot dogs. My house is filled with the sharp scent of warm vinegar, which catches the back of my nose and makes my eyes water.

    Canning is full of steam and risk. It's easy, but there are many little details that you must follow or court disaster if you overlook them. There's cracking and exploding or seal failure, or, worse, botulism. You are mucking about with large pans of boiling water, with the ever-present danger of scalding.

    Making preserves is a deeply satisfying activity though, like making bread, that connects one to the past, to those farmer's wives and pioneer women who "put up" the harvest to feed the family for the winter. Today, for me, it's a luxury, that I do because I enjoy it, not because I have to.

    Yet, there's something in me that compels me to store things against future disaster. Growing up poor trains you never to take next week's meals for granted, and despite my professional job with its more than adequate salary, there's a part of me that is still the child of a father who was like Mr. Micawber, only not as jolly, and of a mother who knew how to make very little money go a long way. There is still satisfaction to be found in storing up treasure in case of a rainy day.

    More importantly, there's a real, sensual pleasure in the gleaming glass and the way the fruit or vegetables glow in the light afterwards. I love the "pop" of the lids when they cool. I love that I'm contributing to the zero-mile diet, able to bring out in the winter something that I grew in my own garden this summer.

    There's a lot of me in those jars.
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