Grampa grew up in the Great Depression.  He was 14 years old on Black Tuesday and he would be 25 — married with two young children — when the economy began to recover.  Living through the terribly lean times meant learning how to make a dime stretch out over a week. It required “penny pinching” and using things to their full potential. After being read (and reread) newspapers were used in the outhouses. Butcher’s paper doubled as grocery lists.  Even the cores of the apples were eaten. Nothing — not one thing — went to waste.

I wondered at my grandfather’s frugal ways when I was young.  He wasn’t one to go out and replace a broken item.  He would tinker around till he got the thing working again.  Since I was born at the end of the Baby Boomers and the beginning of the Gen X, I was raised in a much more disposable environment.  We didn’t knit sweaters, we bought them; we didn’t slave over the stove, we popped TV dinners into the oven.  We were fed a diet of television and made to believe that we could have anything we desired.  When it broke or we became tired of it, we threw it away.

One of Grampa’s joys was picking fresh fruit and canning it. Spending the day in an orchard was bliss. Fresh air, sunshine, exercise — it was heaven to Grampa.  And he would come home with pounds and pounds of apples or strawberries or plums. The next few days would be filled with washing, peeling, pitting, and cutting up gallons and gallons of fruit. Then the fruit would be cooked into preserves or jams or jellies.  After the bottles were filled, they would sit in the kitchen for a few days before being transferred to the basement.

I loved the colourful patchwork patterns the jars would form in the basement cupboard. Every now and again Gramma would send me downstairs for a “jar of that blackberry stuff.”  She’d holler ten minutes after I disappeared into the basement, “You get stuck down there?” because I would inevitably have to run my hands over every jar on every shelf.

Grampa’s “pick fruit, make jam” advice wasn’t meant to apply only to canning the fruit of the vine.  Grampa was trying to tell and show me that there is a joy and reward in producing things with your own hands.  The hard work makes the jam taste sweeter, fruitier, better.  My generation could learn a lot from Grampa’s!  Reduce, reuse, recycle.

I sure miss Grampa’s jams!


photo credit: http://www.life123.com/food/canning-preserving/jam-jelly/secrets-to-successful-jam-or-jelly.shtml