A slight break from the writing life: I am featured in today’s “Chef on Call” article in The Washington Post Food section. The premise of “Chef on Call” is that average home cooks—i.e. me—write in to talk about some cooking skill/menu they’d like to learn to do, and reporter David Hagedorn pairs the average person with a professional chef who teaches the new trick.
For as long as I remember, I have been fascinated by canning. (Too many "Little House on the Prairie" books, perhaps? And check out my canning “fantasy” on pages 178-180 of my first novel, Pears on a Willow Tree.) But in real life, every time I read about canning, I always got to the part that said something along the lines of, “And if you don’t boil your jars perfectly, you will get botulism and die.” Kind of scared me off canning.
Ten years ago, I read a memorable essay in the Washington Post called “50 Things To Do Before I Die,” about a woman who had come up with a list of things that she would like to do in her life—mostly ordinary and within the realm of possibility; I mean, sure we’d all like to star in a major Hollywood production or win the Nobel Prize for Literature, but let’s be real. Whenever she was feeling stifled, she’d pull out her list and do something. I liked that idea, and made up my own list (which is a great exercise in itself). Canning was right there.
Now, thanks to the Washington Post responding to my “Chef on Call” plea, I have canned. I spent a wonderful and informative afternoon in the restaurant kitchen of Buck's Fishing and Camping, gaining confidence in canning from D.C. chef Carole Greenwood, who makes her own pickles, hot peppers, and many other goodies. Then I came home and tried it myself. And now, being obsessive, my basement is already filled with too many Ball jars and lids; I’m no expert, but at least I’m confident—or reasonably sure—I won’t die when I eat the peach preserves I canned yesterday.
So, check out the article, and/or come up with your own list of 50 things to do before you die…and get busy!