Posted by: Hannah | 08/30/2010

in the kitchen

My husband doesn’t believe in an afterlife.  He’s an atheist.  That’s his choice.  I am not.  While I don’t attend church – because I haven’t ever found one that quite works for me – I believe in the human soul.  I think some part of us moves on when we die.  And I have always felt that our loved ones are never far away.

This was not a conscious choice for me.  I just have always felt the presence of my family, the ones who’ve gone on, watching.

Yesterday, I spent the day with my Nanny.  She died five years ago.


She always had a garden.  Not one of these little backyard gardens.  Hell no.  She lived through the Depression as one of ten children.  When her and my Grandad put in a garden, they meant business.  The thing was huge.  Massive.  The harvest every year was a ridiculous amount of food.  She gave lots away.  I was always allowed to eat as much as I wanted, standing there between the rows.  And, every year, she canned.  Everything she could.

Mustard pickles.  Dill pickles.  Jams.  Jellies.  Pickled beets.  Green tomato pickle, which she called “chow chow”.  (I’ve heard it called “chow” lots of times, but she always doubled it up.  Maybe hers was extra-good.  Certainly I thought so.)  By the end of September, her root cellar shelves were full of rows upon rows of Mason jars, lined up neatly, slumbering down there in the dim light of one light bulb, waiting for Thanksgiving and Christmas and meat & potatoes lunches without number.

She didn’t follow written recipes.  They were all in her head.

Yesterday, I tackled canning for the first time.  My menfolk picked the tomatoes and onions.  I picked up the other necessary ingredients at the farmers’ market.  I took a deep breath and dived right in.

Although Nanny would never have made salsa – I mean NEVER, that would have been weird foreign food and too spicy for any normal person to eat – she was right there in the kitchen with me.  I felt her watching and guiding and cheering me on.

Next up – pickles.  I’m sure she’ll give me the gears for putting garlic in them.  But she’ll be there helping, all the same.



  1. This is so great. Must be so fulfilling!

  2. I spent the weekend with my Grampy, he died 2 years ago. I was on a tractor mowing hay in his fields. The tractor’s radiator blew and I’m sure I heard him laughing. It was a nice weekend with him on my mind, remembering his laugh.

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