Monday, August 31, 2009


...or so it feels.

Why does canning my own tomato sauce feel like an act of rebellion? Can I not just buy canned tomato sauce (or paste, or diced, or whole or whatever) more quickly and cheaply than spending hours cutting and peeling and standing over boiling water? Why in the world would I want to do this?

That's a good question...

Why do I fix my own bikes? Why do I cook my own meals? Make my own computers? Grow my own vegetables? Ride my bike in all weather?

Why do I want to live my life? Do for myself? Continue learning -- and by learning, I mean learning by doing and not learning by watching TV and "learning" about some subject. I want to do for myself. To fail as I did when I first started canning these tomatoes -- I forgot the lemon juice. I had to pour all the jars back into the cooking pot, add the lemon juice and start all over again after cleaning out the jars. Do I need the lemon juice? Intellectually, I think I don't, but I've never canned tomatoes before, so I follow the directions, pour out the canned tomatoes and start again. I don't know. Maybe next year I'll know, but right now I don't. I follow the directions, I learn the basics and subsume my ego, myself. I try to find Beginner's Mind.

I learn, I listen (or read) from those who know. I've never canned. I have ideas, but I've never canned and My Ideas Don't Count.

I learn. I fail. I succeed.

I have 7 quarts of tomato sauce. At what cost? I could have purchased tomato sauce for much less than the canning jars, tomatoes, lids, water, gas and pots needed. I would still be ignorant, I wouldn't have failed. I wouldn't have forgotten the lemon juice. I wouldn't have spent the time feeling the tomatoes, cutting the stems and bad bits away, smelling the scent as they collapse in the pan, sweated over the boiling tomatoes and jars. I wouldn't have forgotten the lemon juice. I would just have cans of tomatoes. An ingredient, nothing more.

I wouldn't have learned anything.

Now I know about lemon juice and hot jars and stirring and smells and sweat and I appreciate my sauce. It now has more meaning than just something that you pour over noodles. Something in which meatballs swim -- there's a lesson, some life's meaning.

Easy doesn't mean much, you don't learn, you never care, you don't remember.

Tomato sauce, jams and pickles and mustards. Living life with what is vibrant now and capturing it and the smells and sights while still vital and fresh.


Not the safe, comfortable, easy way.



rlove2bike said...

Interesting post. Very nice....and we must remember the same applies to mountain

Beany said...

I loved this post. I've starting calling these actions, "celebrating my humanity." After all, why else do we have our mind and our brain and our opposable thumbs and so on? To just lie around in a mindless stupor?

One of my favorite essays on the web may also interest you. Hope you enjoy is as much.

Doug said...

Very well said!

WheelDancer said...

Ode to life! Some folks are spectators, some get in the game.

If we eventually get enough tomatoes to can, we will be doing the same thing but it could be this is the year for learning how to set up the square foot garden and make some mistakes. Unlike your canning experience, when you forget the lemon juice in your first garden experience, you don't get to start over in the same year. Next year, however, we will have a bang up garden and be grateful for what we learned this year.

bother yam said...



I know what she means.


Compost - years and years of compost. This year we'll be adding worm composting to the mix too.

Snak Shak said...

That's a good post. I have felt the same about some things; I tie my own flies for fishing - not because it's easy or cheap, but because you can do this if you know how. Same with bike maintenance, lawn care and home maintenance. I am contemplating sewing and knitting next...

What you are talking about is thinking, learning and eventually fending for yourself - and creating. That's worth more than the money it costs to do it. It's what pulled us from the primordial ooze and made us human.

Jamie Fellrath said...

I'm with you, brother. One thing I think about on many an occasion, as an IT professional, is that if all this tech suddenly went bye-bye, how would I provide for my family? Having some actual useful skills outside the tech arena would be cool - and that's one of the reasons I'm doing more work on my bike myself and want to get into things like gardening and even canning like you. Great post!

The Old Bag said...

Great post. Living just isn't about grabbing and running off to the next item on the schedule....

Beast1624 said...

Now you've done it. I'll be craving tomatoes all day.

Totaly agree with you. Best lessons are learned by messing up. In the imortal word of Charlie Brown: "If you learn from your mistakes that makes me the smartest person in the world!"