Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Day in the Kitchen

Before it was barely light, the sound of the wind thrashing the trees in the neighborhood infiltrated my dreams, making me image wild surf and seascapes.

The wind, along with the high pollen count from the citrus, the walnuts, the locust, and the weeds, is hurtful. Without the wind, it would be aggravating, but with the wind -- oh, noes, time to stay indoors.

And so it was an indoor day, a day for the kitchen, which we needed, after all.

Orange season is at its end, so we had bought cheap navel oranges in big bags to grind into juice. That's how the morning began. Bernie got more than two big jars of sweet, rich juice from his market harvest.

Then it was my turn, when I brought home my 40 Super-Jumbo eggs from the egg plant down the road. Super-Jumbo eggs are incredibly large, and can't be automatically processed at the egg-plant. They don't get candled there, and they're too big to go through the auto-wash. So we washed them carefully, all 40 of them, and I candled each with a flashlight to make sure they didn't have any dark streaks in them. (One was revealed to be a big double-yolker, which absolutely astonished Lillian, who had never even heard of such a thing!)

When my eggs were done, Bernie came back on shift to juice lemons from our tree, making lemon juice cubes to give us lemonade all summer long. (Lemons are a winter fruit.)

When the lemons' juice was all put away in ice cube trays, we cut up a large banana squash and cooked it in the pressure cookers. This is for pumpkin pies, a bright and rich-tasting confection. Then it was time for lunch, while the squash/pumpkin cooled.

In the afternoon, I piled the cooked squash into the Cuisinart (I love this technological marvel) and whirred it until it was creamily crushed. In my mother's time, we would put squash/pumpkin into a ricer and hand-grind it into palatability, leaving behind the fibrous bits. With the Cuisinart, the fibrous stuff gets chopped into oblivion, yet still remains as fiber in the mix, thus adding healthy stuff. The harvest was five pies' worth of pumpkin, a real treasure.

It was Real Life. We harvested, we processed, we preserved, all for our own survival, and pleasure.

As I gently washed the eggs, I had a strong sense of the blessing of food. They came directly from the chicken; no machinery was involved. This was REAL food, and we cared for it and prepared it for consumption ourselves.  It was not an automated event, far removed from our refrigerator. It was not a detached event; what I was carefully cleaning was also what would nourish my family, bringing to the task a tenderness, a love.

When I measured the pumpkin into containers for freezing, I had a sense of the future, when the pies made from this effort would bring smiles and good feelings to those who ate them.

I have a strong sense that this is what life is supposed to be about, not about hurrying to make money or meet deadlines, but to attend to the basic stuff of existence, the food, the provision, the love. The society we live in has put those things on a back burner, or a side burner at best. We've lost so much beauty and peace in that.

Retirement has honestly been a bounty of blessings.


Cheryl said...

I hope some of the pumpkin lasts until I can get there for dinner.

Tweetywill said...

I think this idea is the very one that leaves me hankering for a chicken farm in Montana or a trout farm in Idaho - instead of selling my eight hours a day to the highest bidder.

Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for my job and the living it provides. I just wish that the job and the living were one and the same, instead of two different things.