I learned this summer that good food, good friends, and a good project are all you really need for happiness.
In our culture, it’s easy to get caught in a trap that the path to joy and happiness is paved with consumption. Consumption of things. Consumption of entertainment. It’s not about giving. It’s not about working. It’s about getting.
I can get caught in this trap as easily as anyone. It takes effort to stem the tide of consumption-happiness. To feel the thrill of buying something and mistake that for joy. To be lulled into the ease of entertainment and bypass deep content.
And then we had a weekend that laid it all out clearly. We had friends come to visit for a weekend. We enjoyed each other’s company, we worked on some projects together (and we really worked!), and we ate great food that we prepared together. It was awesome.
If I were to define essential parts of our family culture, food would be at the base of it. We grow food. We cook food. We are all about good food. And one vision of us that comes to mind is all of us in the kitchen late at night in summer processing food. When it needs to happen, we generally get it done. It’s late. We’re tired. But this is what we do. Although I can’t say that I look forward to these nights, it’s super fun and it’s who we are. This is what we do.
In the land of food and food processing, I figured out a handy trick this summer. In fact, my sister in law taught me, although she probably didn’t realize it!
I had wondered for years about a curious experience John and I had in Guatemala years ago. A native woman cooked for us and we ate beans at every single meal. The curious part of it was that she had no refrigeration. The pot of beans sat out on the stove day after day and we continued to eat out of that same pot for at least a week. Hello! Food poisoning? Yet, we never got sick. The beans never went bad. The entire experience was a mystery to me.
I asked my sister in law in passing if she had any insights and she told me that growing up (she grew up in El Salvador), they always did that. If you boil something with the lid on, turn off the heat, and leave the pot there, no bacteria can enter the food. But once you lift the lid, you open it to contamination.
Of course! Essentially, you are canning it. It makes perfect sense.
I decided to try that theory this summer. I didn’t have a big enough batch of tomatoes to can, so I canned what I had on the stovetop in a pot while I waited for more to ripen. The tomatoes sat in their boiled, covered state on the stovetop (no refrigeration) for a week and they did not go bad. This trick could come in handy for so many things and I’m amazed I hadn’t figured it out sooner. Leftover soup and no room in the fridge?
Another food thing I have learned this summer is why I crave junk food on long runs and hikes. It had long been curious to me because when I push myself physically, I crave foods that normally sound terrible to eat….coke, greasy chips, etc. A nurse-acquaintance laughed when I told her this. She told me that I crave junk food because it’s the easiest food to digest. Chemo patients live on McDonalds, she told me. When your body is physically stressed, it wants the easiest calories to digest possible. Again, it makes absolutely perfect sense and I am glad to understand why this is true for me.
Have you learned any food truths recently? Ever done stove-top canning?