When I handed my Mamaw a jar of the plum jelly I'd made, she held it gently with two hands. Then, she stepped out of the dark hallway, into the light of the kitchen, and held it up to take a better look, "Oh, Ashley, it's beautiful. Just beautiful."
Later, when we were discussing how I make my dehydrated apples, she commented on how white they were and wondered how I keep them from turning brown. I told her, and she said again, "Well, they're just beautiful."
It made me smile, of course. And, I just kept thinking about it. Sure, we still appreciate the beauty of food a bit. We like our salads to look nice. We admire a "colorful plate." And presentation is key in nicer restaurants. But, Mamaw admired that jelly as if it were a work of art -- something much more than food.
And, it is. It's the fruit of labor. It's the beautiful result of a 2-day long process of sticky stirring and straining and boiling and wiping and more. And Mamaw, who knows well what it is to stir and strain and boil and wipe, appreciates it; she appreciates it in a way that others just may not be equipped to. She can see that jelly as something so much more than just the sweet topping for a biscuit.
At one of my first canning club meetings, some ladies were discussing how to keep the cinnamon pear chunks from floating to the top of the jar. I wondered, "Why do we not want them to float to the top? Will they spoil?" Apparently, the reason we don't want our fruit or vegetables to float to the top is that it looks better in the jar when the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the liquid. Looks better? I laughed a little to myself. Who cares?
But, when I made my own batch and took great care lining them up in neat rows on the pantry shelf, I got it. There's a pride in producing your own food, in taking the time to do something the "old" way, the slow way, the time-honored way. Everytime I pop the top off one of those jars and serve up a side dish of pears for Little Boy's lunch, I can't help but note how beautiful they are.
Mamaw, you're right. My jelly is beautiful. And your ability to see that is one of the many beautiful things about you. Mamaw, thank you for teaching me how to can green beans and pickles and jelly. Thank you for being so proud of me in all my "homesteading" endeavors and for faithfully reading this crazy blog. Thank you for seeing the beauty in my jelly and in me. Thank you for being the beautiful, inspirational woman that you are. I love you. Happy birthday!