Last night my friend Zoe was visiting from NYC–the same night the local, sustainably grown peaches arrived that my sister and I planned to can. Instead of yacking around the kitchen table sipping mint tea, the three of us got to work. As soon as the kids were in bed, we put the pots of water to boil on the stove, mixed the sugar and water for a syrup and got to work blanching and peeling the peaches. “Ladies, botulism is our enemy tonight,” said Zoe.
None of us had ever canned peaches–or any other fruit for that matter–but there was something familiar about standing shoulder-to-shoulder working fast, peeling the fruit. We talked about love, children, how our lives had changed, our dreams for the future. I felt the presence of M.F.K. Fisher and remembered her lovely essay in The Gastronomical Me where she describes the ritualistic fervour that took over her mother and grandmother each canning season. There was pleasure in the work.
The three of us may not have done this before, but the female ritual was somehow embedded in our ancestral memories.
We developed the rhythm of an assembly line by the time it came to hot packing the peaches. We each took responsibility for one task. I loved the site of Zoe, in her beautiful designer print dress, meticulously pressing the peaches so the air bubbles would float to the surface. By the end of the night, we had only six jars to show for and lots of questions for someone who knew what they were doing. But it was fun and hopefully next year, Zoe will return with her empty Mason Jar and we can do it again.