About a month or so ago, my friends Cathleen and Robbin went strawberry-picking and decided to make jam from their loot. I have always wanted to do that, so when their photos started showing up on Facebook, I instantly demanded (er, asked?) for the recipe. Cathleen took a picture of a box of pectin (called Sure-Jell) and said all I needed was that, some fruit, some sugar, and the jars.
I’ve sat on that information for a month, biding my time because, even though Cathleen swore it was easy, I just knew that making jam was a process as intricate and time-consuming and theatrical as Lucy’s stepping on grapes to make wine.
I come by this misconception (and it is a misconception) honestly. Recently, I assigned my students one of M.F.K. Fisher’s essays from The Measure of My Powers (which is published in her lovely memoir, The Gastronomical Me, essential reading for anyone who loves food and writing), an early essay about her grandmother, mother, and cook making jam. In this very short essay, she recounts the tone in the kitchen – not fun at all, but serious, almost religious, a calculated attack on nature. Continue reading »