The Farmer’s Market was today. It was colorful, appetizing, and they were selling 25 pound boxes of tomatoes for $12. In our neck of the woods that’s a pretty outstanding price. Momentarily forgetting that I have two children under the age of three I quickly snagged the last box and informed my husband that we’d be canning tomato soup. Right now. What could he really do at that point? He pulled the canning supplies out of the cabinet and began washing tomatoes. What a guy.
Eight hours after the initial tomato purchase we have 10 quarts of tomato soup which we’ll use as our winter stew base. Tomorrow I might find myself excited about that but not right now. My husband and I spent most of the afternoon being constantly reminded that we are first and foremost parents. We have children whose needs do not stop simply because we want to enjoy homemade soup this winter. Our toddler, who has spent the last month eschewing all food in the way that 2 year olds sometimes do, has suddenly decided to eat like a horse to make up for it. She made this decision as soon as I came home with 25 pounds of tomatoes. Simultaneously and unbeknownst to anyone our 4 month old son made a plan to skip all of his naps for the rest of the day. I get the feeling that this is just the beginning of their plotting. How many meals did my daughter eat today? I’ve lost track. How many times did I attempt to nurse my son to sleep only to give up once again? When they really start communicating with each other we’ll be in trouble.
Back in the days before kids lived in our house we were big time canners. Our cabinets were filled with home canned garlic dill pickle stackers, chili sauce, blackberry jam, and rhubarb pie filling. We had city garden plots that made it possible to bring home fresh lettuce and kale, green beans and tomatillos, cabbages and squash. We bought the Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard and lived a life full of good food. We experimented with peach-mint salsa, discovered pineapple-squash relish, and created then devoured quarts of sun-dried tomato chutney. When some acquaintances gave us all of their concord grapes we made 40 quarts of grape juice using some cheesecloth, a big pot, and a carboy. The process stained the back patio purple. We bought vanilla ice cream and made Purple Cows until the juice ran out (just mix the grape juice and the ice cream into a beverage). When some friends had an unexpectedly large apple yield we took 7 bags of apples home and made 30 quarts of applesauce like it was nothing.
Now flash forward to the present. Our cabinet holds 8 jars of bruschetta salsa that my husband canned last summer when my morning sickness kept me far away from the smell of tomatoes and vinegar. The salsa is good, it’s just that we never actually had time to eat it over the course of the last year. We are also currently housing 3 jars of strawberry syrup which is all that is left of our Mother’s Day EXPERIENCE of the pick-your-own-strawberry variety. I spent that trip attempting to learn how to nurse my son in Ergo Infant Insert while sitting on a straw bale as a tractor pulled me to the berry field. Ah, good times. The syrup was meant to be jam but I’m sorry to tell you that with a 1 month old in the house we just weren’t up to our usual standards. This brings me back to the point. What we learned today in a long, drawn-out, and painful way is that our “usual standards” have changed. We received our wake-up call and now concede that we are not currently canners extraordinaire. We are in fact lucky to have made a few jars of soup out of some tomatoes that were grown by someone else.