“I feel sorry for husbands whose wives don’t make them homemade jams and pickles,” my Gran remarked to my cousin and I. “There’s nothing like having a cupboard full of jars that have been made with love that you can eat together. It’s just not the same as the store bought jams and pickles.”
As she walked out of the room my cousin looked at me. I looked at my cousin. As Gran’s footsteps padded down the hallway I whispered, “I’ve never made a pickle or jam before in my life.” My cousin whispered back, “I’m far too busy to make my own pickles and jams.” And then we laughed. Oh how we laughed. But without hesitation, the next day we happily took home multitudes of jars of pickles and jams and our respective husbands ate those little jars of love with us, and God bless them, they never did complain when the lovingly made jars ran out and we returned to eating store bought jams and pickles. (We must have bought them with love.)
This Friday I realised with a panic that I had not bought a Father’s Day present for my Dad. The panic was not because I had no present, I still had time to do that. The panic was because my father is horrendously hard to buy presents for. All of a sudden I had a brain wave! I would make him a chilli chutney! Something with a little kick to put on his sandwiches. I congratulated myself on having a plan, and as I thought about how to execute it, I started thinking about Gran and the conversation we had so many years ago. I then had another brainwave, I should make Dad some of his mother’s pickles! Dad particularly liked getting jars of pickles off Gran every visit. It would have to be a sentimental favourite for a gift. #Winning
I went searching through a recipe book I had of Gran’s. No pickle recipe. But there was a tomato relish recipe. That would do. But just in case, I sent a quick note to my Aunty asking if she had Gran’s pickles recipe. I went ahead with the relish plan when I hadn’t heard back from her and I went shopping, with five kids no less. I would declare myself supermum, but it would be untrue. I was a frazzled worn out wreck. Particularly after one child swung from the fruit and veggie scales like a swing, and before I could get there to stop the antics, his identical brother, oh yes, I am not protecting their identities, had started to use it like a bungee cord. I took their hands firmly, brought them back to the trolley and was giving them a good scolding when someone I don’t know very well recognised me. Gulp. Turn on friendly face! I also ran into another friend who I know much better, but the conversation was brief. I just wanted to get home!
I immediately started skinning tomatoes and roasting capsicum and chillis when I got home. I knew I had limited time before we had to go out to a soccer break up. While I’m busying in the kitchen, I received a photo from my Aunty of Gran’s Sweet Mustard Pickles recipe! It was around this time that I also realised that I had miscalculated how many tomatoes were in a pound, (I’m a metric girl, imperial confuses me) so I decided I should use my excess tomatoes to make the pickles as well as the relish and the chutney.
It was at about midnight that I questioned why I was being such an overachiever. I maybe should have paid more attention to the remark on my other grandmother’s recipe book. She gave me a recipe for Plum Jam but then wrote next to it, “It’s easier to buy a jar.”
On into the early hours of the morning I realised why it was sacrilege at Gran’s house to throw out an empty jar as I searched in vain through the recycle bin for an empty jar. When it was time to move Grandad out of their house, we had to smuggle the hoards of empty glass jars into the trailer to go to the tip. He just couldn’t cope with seeing any glass jars thrown out, even though Gran had passed away quite some years prior. When my wheelie bin search proved futile I started examining my fridge and happily found an almost empty bottle of olives that were able to be relocated into a Tupperware container. I also emptied a jar of chocolate coated peanuts, which didn’t really help as the jar was plastic, but at least I have more room to put pickles in the fridge, right?
And here I sit, waiting for my olive jar to sterilise.
I can tell you this. Those pickles, chutneys and relish sitting on my counter top right now are made with love. So much love. Somehow I am sure they will taste better than store bought. Every stir of the pot I have been thinking about my Dad’s face when he sees those pickles. I am wondering whether the chutney is going to have enough kick in it to delight Dad and my husband. I have relished making the relish and when I got sick of peeling tomatoes I kept on peeling thinking of how much better it was going to taste because of the effort. But the most delightful part of this whole process has been the memories of Gran while I have cooked. All afternoon, and into the evening, Gran’s voice has been echoing in my head. Long lost conversations have been remembered. As I stand at the saucepan and stir I can picture Gran doing the same in her cluttered kitchen. When my husband walked into my kitchen and remarked that it smells like Gran and Grandad’s house, I only felt pride.
Happy Fathers Day Dad! On this Father’s Day I’m particularly grateful that your mother fed and raised you to be such an outstanding man and that has made you a beyond excellent father.
(Post script: I’ve had a few difficulties posting this blog, so Father’s Day has been and gone. Alas, Dad came down with the dreaded man flu, so I’m still waiting to give him my gift!)
What gifts did you give on Father’s Day? Have you ever made pickles, relish or chutney? (Or Jam?)