By Peggy Strait, a member of Get Your WordsWorth
Fearful that I would fall into inconsolable grief after my husband’s sudden death last spring, my two sons showered me with love and kept me perpetually engaged in activities.
One evening, my son David called and asked if I would like to go with him and the kids to pick strawberries at a strawberry farm.
“Sure”, I said.
“Good, be at my house tomorrow at 12 noon.”
I set my alarm clock for 10 a.m. – an ungodly hour for someone who generally slept till noon. Next morning I was up with the first ring, drank a glass of milk, took two motrins – always do that before a visit with the grandchildren – keeps me functioning as a 67 instead of a 77-year old – and then drove from my country house in Catskill to David’s house in the rural outskirts of Albany.
We all climbed into his car: David, his wife Paige, their two children (13 years old Steven, 5 years old Maylon), and me.
As predicted by Google weather forecast, it began to rain just ever so lightly, as we arrived at the strawberry farm. Undaunted by such an uncooperating act of nature, the children ran to the strawberry field. I followed.
“Have you ever tasted such delicious strawberries, Mom?” asked David.
“No!” I replied, with rain dripping down my face. “I will never enjoy store bought strawberries again.”
Indeed, they were the most delicious strawberries I had ever eaten.
Back in my New York City apartment a few days later, I was confronted with the problem of dealing with a basket full of, by now somewhat distressed looking, strawberries.
“Strawberry jam!” I thought. “Of course! I will make fresh strawberry jam!”
I felt a sudden surge of energy and excitement. I rushed to my computer and googled, “Recipe for strawberry jam”!
Soon I was standing at the stove, my whole being experiencing a delicious sense of domestic joy, as I stirred my pot of sliced strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest with a wooden spoon. The low heat from the burner slowly dissolved the sugar, then brought the mixture to a full rolling boil. I began to smell the wonderful aroma of fresh strawberry jam in the making.
Twenty more minutes, according to the recipe, and I should have a pot of fresh strawberry jam.
I watched the clock and the pot with great expectation – twenty minutes.
I stirred the mixture with my wooden spoon. A layer of dark red substance, presumably cooked strawberries, was floating at the top of the pot. Beneath this was a thin red liquid – more like beet soup than jam.
Having had no experience in this kind of venture I had no idea what strawberry jam should look like before it goes into a jar. Still, I never thought it would look like this! So, I decided to keep cooking the mixture until it arrives at a more strawberry-jam-like consistency.
Another twenty minutes. Still there was no substantial change in consistency and appearance. I had a sinking feeling that something was not right. Maybe the strawberries had rotted and could no longer be made into jam. Maybe you can’t make fresh strawberry jam out of not-so-fresh strawberries.
By this time my initial enthusiasm for making fresh strawberry jam had completely evaporated. Now I just wanted to get the project over with. I decided to move on to the next step in the recipe. That is, see if a small amount of the juice will gel on a very cold plate.
I went to the freezer to get the plate that I had chosen for this part of the strawberry jam making process. I had carefully placed it on top of some packages of frozen peas and other foods to chill. It was a Corning Corelli white dinner plate with a blue flowered border. I had chosen it because I had read sometime ago that the material used for making the plate was the same as the material used in making the nose cone of a space rocket, and therefore, should be capable of sustaining a very low temperature.
As I opened the door to the freezer, I was caught by surprise to see the plate suddenly slide off the packages of frozen peas and other foods. It smashed onto the stone tile of my kitchen floor and splintered into a million slivers of glass.
I stared in disbelief at the heap of glass on the kitchen floor at my feet. This, I thought, happens only in movies. It can’t be happening here!
I went to get a broom and a dustpan to sweep up the heap of glass. Then I saw that the slivers of glass were not confined neatly in a single heap. There were tiny slivers of glass all over the kitchen floor. And, not only the kitchen floor, but far beyond. I saw that slivers of glass had been flung out pass the kitchen door to the dining room and under the dining table.
Now I was in a state of panic. I must clean this up before the grandchildren arrive in the morning for their day with grandma.
It is 2 a.m. I have finished cleaning the dining room floor and the kitchen floor. I return to my pot of strawberry jam.
Another moment of disbelief! The stovetop was completely covered with tiny slivers of glass. The force of the smashing of the near frozen plate on the stone tile floor was so great that slivers of glass were projected into the air and up onto the stovetop. If there is glass on the stovetop, there is glass in the pot!
Now I felt totally defeated. I couldn’t deal with this tonight. I will have to deal with it tomorrow.
I took my pot of cooked strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest and shoved it into the oven and closed the door.
As I walked out of the kitchen, my eyes caught sight of a jar sitting on a shelf. It was a brand new jar of Smucker’s strawberry jam – my husband’s favorite jam. He must have bought it before he died. I reached for the jar.
I had spent the entire evening and much of the night making strawberry jam. Now I held in my hand a jar of very good strawberry jam. Don’t you know the slogan? If it’s Smucker’s it’s got to be good!
I have no future plans for making fresh strawberry jam.
– Peggy Strait is a widow, mother, grandmother, professor emerita of mathematics, and since joining “Writing From Life Experience” has broadened her interest in arranging numbers to include an interest in arranging words.