I am really into home food preservation. I have an annually rotating stock of hundreds of jars of canned applesauce, canned pears, apple chutney, tomatillo salsa, jams, jellies, apple butters, tomatoes, tomato sauce and fruit juices. When I worked on a farm and had access to surplus vegetables, I also pressure canned lots of green beans, beets and soups. Every fall, I aim to put up a minimum of three gallons of dried apple pieces, and I like to get some dried sweet plums and cherries in there, too. I freeze several gallons of sour cherries and sometimes sweet (the sweet cherry trees I have access to are temperamental), and try to get at least a couple gallons of other berries in there, like strawberries or raspberries, which I obtain by bartering away sour cherries or getting a good deal on a flat at the farmer’s market.
I also ferment between 5 and 15 gallons of hard cider and non-vinous wines (like elderberry) most years.
Home food preservation is a fun way to be thrifty. Perhaps the funnest part of home food preservation is climbing into apple trees and leaving with 200 pounds of free apples, or climbing into cherry trees and picking “one for the pie hole, two for the pie.” Although listening to Tolstoy while pitting cherries isn’t bad.
But lately, cooking meals is a whole ‘nother matter.
I resent cooking. Canning is all fine and good because it’s a project that produces a big return for labor – a year’s supply (or more) of whatever it is I’m canning. Throughout the year, I can say, “Hey, I’m in the mood for poached pears,” open a jar, heat the pears, sprinkle cinnamon and heavy cream on them, and call it dessert.
But if I want a balanced meal with protein and complex carbohydrates, I have to make some effort, and the effects are short-lived. Even if I make a double or triple batch of whatever it is, the leftovers don’t last more than a week or two (if I stow some away in the freezer). Usually, whatever it is lasts for two meals, and then it’s gone, and then I’m hungry and have to cook again.
If I weren’t picky and cheap, I could buy all my meals pre-made and frozen. But after a while of that you feel like you’re not eating real food.
Would life be better if I were a raw food enthusiast? I doubt it. In order to make the raw food seem like normal food, you still have to prepare it. It’s the preparation time in cooking – combined with the quick disappearance of the food once it’s prepared – that I resent.
Yesterday, I walked five miles. Great for my health, maybe, but not for reducing my time in the kitchen. It naturally left me more hungry than usual; I ate all the leftovers I could find and even one of these disgusting TGI Friday’s frozen chicken quesadillas that was in my freezer for reasons that are too complicated to explain. And today, with no leftovers on hand, that meant I had to cook again – which made me remember how much I resent cooking because I’d rather be going on five mile walks or finishing my taxes or reading medical journal articles about conjunctivitis.
I guess I could just eat 20 quarts of applesauce a day, but maybe I would dislike that more than cooking.
Occasionally I enjoy cooking. But only when I’m not hungry. When I’m hungry, it’s an enemy that stands between me and the food.