I have a small bookshelf in my kitchen where I keep my cookbooks. I’m not a big collector of cookbooks — most were passed-down from my mother and mother-in-law with basic recipes that come in handy from time-to-time. But there are exceptions.
I was looking up a recipe to share with you all the other day and happened upon a lovely cookbook that I had purchased on a vacation in California years ago called “The Art of Preserving” by Jan Berry.
The cover is beautiful with a photo of juicy fresh plums artfully laid out on blue-ware china on top of an old country table.
Looking back, I am sure I bought this book because I wanted to preserve the relaxed feeling of our vacation when I got home and this book made me feel like I could slow down my life enough to find the time to make preserves and live the lifestyle represented in the pictures — that of simplicity and beauty, health, and abundance.
It has recipes for Green Tomato Relish, Candied Citrus Peel, and a plethora of chutneys, jams, and jellies. I do remember making the Candied Citrus Peel and was delighted with the results and surprised that it was not very hard.
As I flipped through the book, memories came flooding back to me. One memory was a time when I met my penpal from South Africa that I had been writing to since 4th grade. We were both in Girl Scouts. That’s how we met. She came to New York City on business (she had written a book on platinum for the mining industry — apparantly she was an expert in this field) and I went to spend a day or two with her. We were both in our mid 20’s.
As we were having breakfast and getting to know one another, she asked me what the difference was between a jam and a jelly. Then she went on to ask me why we said “cat” (pronounced like “hat”, instead of like “hot”). These were things that didn’t or couldn’t have come out in our letters and we were having such fun learning about each other’s differences.
She visited a 2nd time several years later and came to my home in Ohio. She was amazed to see our open yards in subdivisions. I came to learn from her that their homes were all surrounded by fenced walls. I always wondered if she came from a wealthy family, but I never asked her.
I stopped hearing from her about 5 years later when she had her first baby and moved away from South Africa to live in Monaco with her banker husband. She had a life that I could only dream to live — a life that seemed to consist of simplicity and beauty, health, and abundance — much like the lifestyle represented by the cookbook on preserves.