July 6, 2010

Tea With Jam, Jam and Bread, Jam and Bread

I had an unconventional college experience. I mean, even setting aside the fact that I went to school at the University of Oregon which is, in itself, just plain unconventional, I still did not have what most people would consider a "normal" time in college.

For starters, I wasn't a party girl. I tried it one weekend and decided that was enough for me. I could see how it would appeal to some people, but it just wasn't my thing. And there was the fact that Will and I have been together since my sophomore year, knowing pretty much right away that this was it and treating our relationship as a permanent thing. We were regularly mistaken for married graduate students even though I wasn't yet 21 because, well, we were doing things like gardening in our back yard and saving up to buy a better car together. Well there was that year where we lived next door to the guy who lived in a dumpster and who shouted at us whenever we threw our garbage away. We were more like normal college students that year. After all, we had a futon, a crappy TV and cast off pots and pans like all good college students did back then. But really, we weren't very good at being "college-y".

And on top of that, my parents lived in the town we went to college in because my dad was getting his PhD in the same department where I was getting my BA. Most people would probably hate that, but as I said, I wasn't the type to show up to class hungover, so I didn't really worry about running into my dad in the halls. Besides, I could store some of my junk in his office now and then. And get him to take me out to lunch.

My parents and I have always been close and when they lived in Eugene, I think it made us more so. We lived our separate but connected lives, eating dinner together on Sundays, borrowing lawnmowers (I still owe you for that lawnmower we broke dad!) and making jam.

The three years that we all lived in the same town together my dad and I got into the habit of making blackberry jam in the summer and apple butter in the fall. Although I watched my grandmother make jam during my childhood summers at her house in California, it was really those blackberry and apple canning days that made me into a canning kind of girl. Blackberries grew like weeds around Eugene, filling up every ditch and field and alley that wasn't regularly plowed under, and even many of those were filled with their brambles. Dad and I used to haul old boards along with us on our expeditions and throw them down over the thorny bushes so we could climb out to the centers of the bushes where the berries grew thick and remained untouched by more causal pickers.

Will and I were spoiled, I realize now. We lived stable lives, we had family there to call on when we needed to be told that yes, we should go to the doctor for that nasty cold or no, you shouldn't paint the trim on your rental house when it's below 35 degrees because the paint wont stick. We had a place to go for real dinners and all sorts of tools for our various projects (we were project people even then) And although we ate our fair share of ramen and Pasta-Roni, we also had a cupboard full of jam to gorge on when there was nothing else in the kitchen. In fact, one of my favorite after class snacks was a slice of bread smeared with butter and a big spoonful of blackberry jam, which is what I'm eating, right at this minute.

My friend Tara has a thicket of blackberries at the end of her road and picked a bucket for me this week despite the horrible heat because shes a lovely lady. So while I washed the dishes I also stewed up a pot of blackberry jam. That sounds very exciting, as if I were whizzing around the kitchen mulit-tasking, but really, jam is that simple folks. Especially berry jam. You mash up the berries, you add sugar and pectin, you boil it for a minute or two and you pour it into hot, clean jars. I was especially tickled to make this jam because the rings for my thrifted wire bale jars arrived in the mail today so I got to use the pretty jars for some very pretty jam.

And funny story, I've been picking up these jars here and there but couldn't find a place to buy the rings. I also didn't really know what the rings were called, or for that matter, the jars either. After some dead end searches online I finally found that these are a type of wire bale jar and the rings are, hilariously, called "wide mouth jar rubbers" now I know this is very 7th grade of me but that name has been cracking me up ever since I ordered them. And much to my potty humor delight, the box they came in does indeed say Wide Mouth Jar Rubbers on the front. I'm keeping it on the window sill, just so I can have a little giggle every time I do the dishes.