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Kitchen Conversations…My Hearth!

Kitchen Conversations….

My hearth!

For me, being the eldest of 11 kids, (in quick succession-13 years), my childhood, pretty much, revolved around food.  The kitchen has always been my hearth. There are so many conversations to be had, so many memories…

I love this story, so am re-telling it, mostly for my family. Hope you enjoy it too…& if it triggers any joys you’d like to share we would very much appreciate it!

It’s no wonder my adult life also centres around all things culinary. Food That Sings is a grown-up manifestation of that belonging, that comfort, that giving, that hearth. It is my language of love!

These pages start a series of those formative years, of memories & of lessons learned.

Immediately, I return to the days of preserving, fruit mostly, but other things too, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions & even eggs.  We smeared these little gems in Vaseline, stored them in cool places. When the chooks were going off, laying prolifically, we found ways to give them a long shelf-life.

We experimented. No internet then, no google to research different ways of preservation.

   

Dad would collect a glut of whatever was in season, sometimes from neighbours who always sent their over-flow to the family of 13 who lived down the road. Sometimes he would hitch up a caged box trailer to the old Chev, drive a couple of hours to the fruit growing areas in peak season, load her up & return home with the bounty.

A huge haul that sparked excitement at the abundance on the one hand, & trepidation at the amount of work to come on the other.

Those of us left at home, while this hunting & gathering was under way, prepared for the inevitable….

Sandwiches made for a quick lunch on-the-run, benches devoid of clutter, stacks of equipment close by, like cloths, scrap bowls, colanders, peelers, boards & little knives. Big, shiny preserving pots, rubber rings checked & not perished, gleaming, undented lids, & row upon row of sterilized bottles & jars. Sugar syrup made by the gallon. Plenty of wood chopped & handy, ready to continually feed the slow combustion beast.

   

That stove was the life-blood of our kitchen, always warm, reliable & laden. There’s a whole other story right there!

Day 2 would see us all up early. The days organization out of the way, we take our places around the big old kitchen table, sleeves rolled up, & let the peeling begin….

   

The older kids, those big enough to handle a knife, got to do the cleaning-up of the fruit, while the younger ones did the peeling. Juice would run down our little arms, sticky, not much point in cleaning up yet! Our shoulders would ache, we’d wriggle, winge, chat, play & laugh, all the time peeling, poking, & cutting bits out.

The adults (mostly mum) would slice into desired shape, pack firmly into jars, cover with syrup, clean rims, lid & clip the bottles, & then load into huge pots.

   

Stoke up the fire & wait. And the process continued, & continued….little worker ants preparing for feast rather than famine.

Mum tells us we used to make 400 bottles some years, quite often big 2 litre ones!!

She was also known to say that anyone who stuck their nose through the door would get a peeler in their hand…fun times :))

Often aunties or local friends would come to give mum a hand, a few hours of their valuable time. That was exciting, new people to show off in front of, to pretend you were an individual.

We grew up in fact, so close together in age, as one big group of kids. So really, our unique selves were pretty scarce until we got to our late teens & left the family home :)) Then the discovery began in earnest!

But the fruits of our labour was a sight to behold! Sparkling rows of tastiness waiting to be savoured! There was a sense of accomplishment, of abundance, of gratitude at a heartily stocked pantry.

Even then, for me, a sense of anticipated wonder & exploration with the chosen ingredient.

We learnt about economy & making the best use of what we had. We shared a connectedness, to the land, the seasons, to each other. We bonded over hard work & good, honest food.

As my path unfurls, it still stimulates me to take all that warm-hearth knowing, & sprinkle it liberally upon any who chooses to open their arms & experience such joyous richness.

2 Comments
  1. This made me so wistful! What I used to love as a child (and really miss now) is how we used to live and eat by the seasons. Today, all food is available all year round and it’s not the same… Love the pics 🙂

    • Thankyou Karen…what a lovely reply! It’s so true about seasonal food. We are trying to become more aligned with the real versions & teach our grandchildren :))

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