It’s actually really simple, Moira tells me as she lifts the jars of brilliant red tomatoes off the counter and places them in the pressure canner on the stove. Follow the instructions, she says, and you can make anything last forever.
As I butter a slice of bread (fresh from the oven thanks to a new no-knead, cast iron technique), she explains the different steps involved in basic home canning: bring up to temperature, close valve and let pressure build, achieve desired poundage, hold steady, turn off and wait.
Plus, doesn’t everything just look better in glass jars?
Four thirty pm on Tuesday, August 31st and, after smelling Moira’s pickles mid-fermentation, I can’t believe I haven’t thought about taking up fermentation myself. However, in less than twenty four hours I will leave on a small sailboat with two uncles for a year, maybe two. Not an excuse for my neglect of fermentation, by any means, but perhaps an explanation.
Where are we going, you might ask? Very simply, we’re going south. All the way south. Around the bottom of the world south. Into the other side south. That’s the big answer though, the easy answer. The smaller, harder answer skips along the pacific coast of North America; it jumps away from the west coast of Canada and lands for the first time in California. A few more short hops: Mexico. From there, it’s one bigger leap to the Galapagos, a long eastward jaunt to French Polynesia and another back in again to Chile. I too, had always pictured southern South America as a rounded continent – smooth right down the coast and around the point (don’t feel bad, is what I am saying). However, about halfway down that slender country, the coastline begins to fracture until it eventually disintegrates into a series of infinite islas and canales. And it remains one of the hardest places to get to on earth (without a boat). But a boat we have (they have, and I have them as uncles) and so there we will go.
And why am I going?
For many, this may seem like a silly question; indeed how could I not? However, more often than otherwise I wish no one would ask because the truth is that the answer is hard to pin down. Obviously, I go because I can (and because I could not not), and for this I am fortunate. I have the opportunity, the means, the time, the health, and nothing to tell me to stay. But ability and will are different beasts altogether, and it is the will behind the act that must be articulated if we are to understand the why.
I am going
because I want to explore the world by many and varied means and modes.
because I want to be creative with the idea of documentation: see, hear, listen, show, tell, watch.
because I want to learn to knit, to can my own fresh-caught tuna, to navigate, to say ‘anchor’ in spanish, to see weather change, to watch land rise and fall on the horizon, to hike up mountains and along empty beaches, to sit in crowded city squares on market days, to take photographs of small birds and remote shorelines.
It sounds better in my head (remote shores? really?).
From journeys not so recently past, I am aware (perhaps too much so) of how difficult/boring/underwhelming/tiring/emotionally overwhelming travel can be; of romantic notions I feel I have few. However, I also surprise myself with the small pearl of excitement I feel when my mind wanders to a morning months far from now where I sit on deck with a mug of tea in my hand, freshly knit socks on my feet, snugly canned goodies in the hold, a cheerful uncle or two at the helm and an orange sun casting its first hazy glow over yet another oh so remote shore.
The hardest part of canning is making sure it stays at the right pressure. I go outside just for a second to pick some basil or whatever and before I know it I am weeding or watering and I’m nowhere near the kitchen. When I’m canning I feel like I should be chained to the stove. Moira laughs.
I guess that won’t really be a problem on the boat, eh?