Remember when food was real food?

20 11 2009

Hi again: was talking with a friend a couple of days ago. We got to talking about canning and preserving and putting up all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and meats. She mentioned how many quarts of tomatoes she had canned this past summer. I replied that I knew all about that. I have had more experience than I ever wanted in the field of canning and preserving. I then said that tomatoes were so easy to can and they could be counted on to be just as good as the day they were canned, no matter how long they sat on the shelf. She then said that this is not the case anymore. Nowadays, tomatoes have been genetically altered to the point that almost all the acid has been removed from the tomatoes. Now, when they are canned, unless some acid such as lemon juice is added to them, they will spoil rather quickly.

I was truly shocked. I had canned many jars of tomatoes and depended on them many a cold winter day to help stretch a pot of soup or a casserole. That would be terrible if the canned tomatoes spoiled. And then I got to thinking about it all. I guess that is why tomatoes taste like cardboard these days. They have none of that good tomato taste that we used to look forward to each summer. I can still smell that good tomato smell and taste that great taste of years ago. But I never knew exactly what had happened to the tomatoes. And now I know.

I already knew the grains and meats had been genetically engineered to the point that you wonder just what it is that you are eating some days. But I really didn’t know that was why tomatoes had changed so much. Guess that means all the fruits and vegetables are genetically altered to the point that they can sit on the grocer’s shelf for months before spoiling. That is why they can ship them all over the world without damage. Used to be, the tomatoes in the southern part of our state had to be bought, shipped and eaten or canned in a few day’s time or else they would not be palatable. Now, I go into the store, no matter if it is a local one or a national one, feel the hard tough tomato, try to smell it to see if it will have any taste and come away from the store disappointed once again.

And it is said that even if you grow them yourself from old time seeds, they will still get genetically altered if they are pollinated by the bees and cross pollinated with a neighbor’s seeds. Just the same taste as an old piece of cardboard.

I know people get sick and tired of hearing about how good things used to be, but you know that is true these days. Wish we could return to the good tasting, big, bursting tomatoes like my grandmother used to grow. Or to the really great tasting watermelon that I used to eat as a kid, ¬†or to summer squash that tasted like squash instead of a yellow notepad. And those freshly made preserves were so good. I can still remember the true plum preserves and that great strawberry shortcake. Where did it all go? Genetically altered, that’s where it went. What a shame. But I can still wish.

Jars, jars, everywhere and not an end in site!

22 07 2009

Old Canners never quit, they just hoard jars. I never knew how to can. I did not grow up in a family where canning was done. In fact, you can read about my mother’s try at canning in my book, In the 1940’s. But I married the son of a canner, so I learned to process with the best of them. And he and family kept me plenty busy all summer long. Every summer. For years. And years. And years.

When our third child was born, my husband took a week off from work to help me with the new baby. We also put up a bushel of green beans and a sack of sweet corn.

My mother-in-law was a great gardener. She could grow anything and usually did. She grew tomatoes like you cannot imagine. Beautiful, plentiful tomatoes. Every year. For years. If she were alive today, we would not have to worry about the world being a greener place. It would be green – or else.

She grew the vegetables and it was up to me to can them for my family. Of course since this was all given to me free, I could never refuse any of it. So I canned and I canned and I canned. Every year. For years.

I was busy raising 6 children, but believe me, I learned to can or else.

My mother-in-law would call and say she had another bushel of tomatoes for me. And I needed to come right now and pick them up. So no matter what else I might have planned that day, I loaded up the kids and drove to pick up the tomatoes. Then I canned some more. I learned to never, ever throw away a canning jar. You just never know when you might need that jar for another round of canning.

And when my husband traveled, he would stop at the roadside stands and buy surprises for me – like a bushel of squash or a box of strawberries. Oh what fun! I always smiled and thanked him. After all, he was doing this for me. Just think of all the fun I was going to have freezing squash and making strawberry jam. I could hardly wait. And I needed to count the jars to make sure I had enough for all that jam. Next it would be blackberries or green beans. What joy. How wonderful to get up in the early morning and face all that. And peaches. Oh Glory. How lucky I am. Plum jelly everywhere!

And those varicose veins in my legs? They don’t matter at all. Probably will go away just as soon as I finish up this next bushel.

But those jars just keep accumulating every year. For years. And years. Now we have jars stored under the porch, and on the porch, and in the utility closet, and in the coat closet, and next to the hot water tank, and in the garage, and behind the washer. I buy a certain brand of spaghetti sauce because it comes in a canning jar. Then I save more jars. You just never can tell when you might need a canning jar in an emergency. When I hear the word ‘process’, I get goose bumps and start counting jars. And I’m sure I hear that pressure cooker hissing in my sleep. Might need more jars tomorrow. You just never can tell.