Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Canning Too Trendy?

"At-home preserving is ridiculously trendy."

So says Sara Dickerman in this recent Slate article. Yikes.

She goes on to basically picture home-canners as rosy-cheeked obsessive gourmands who are interested mostly in the photographic nature of their end product.

I guess it's true that with any trend there is always a backlash.

There are some truthful points to the article. Ball jars sure are photogenic. Canning is often a weekend activity that gets blogged about. Organic and heirloom crops can cost more than grocery store food. We foodmakers can sometimes sound self-satisfied when talking about our projects.

But to say "let's be honest: It's not about producing serious food for the future, and it's not about shaking a fist at industrial food" is not just negative, it's downright wrong.

I originally started this blog post by pulling out various points in the article I disagreed with, from the argument that canning your own food isn't frugal to the insinuation that relishes and jellies aren't real food.

But after reading the comment section in the article, pretty much all of my thoughts were covered.

I happen to love food. I want to eat food that contains real ingredients, not corn syrup and preservatives. I like creating flavors and tastes that can't be bought in the store.

Paying attention to seasonal food has made me feel like a happier, healthier, human being. It's nice to live more in sync with the seasons and to be aware of the resources that foodmaking uses. Sorry if that gets annoying.

Sure, canning isn't for everyone. It's hard work. It's not as cheap as grocery store food. But if the art of preserving food were to die out, America would sure be in a tough spot. What if the trucks that bring the cans to the grocery store stop running?

Canning is about retaining our skills as self-reliant human beings.

It's about supporting farmers who treat crops as organisms, not as commodities.

It's about limiting the oil and resources used to ship, process, and package our food.

It's about supporting diversity of species with heirloom crops, and respecting the natural change of seasons.

It's about eating food stripped down to it's essence, not plumped up with corn syrup and cellulose gum.

Food is a vehicle for experience. To watch someone's eyes light up when they taste a slice of homemade pickled watermelon rind was worth the several cents and hours of time it cost to make the pickle.

As one commenter wrote:

Whether this particular food trend will continue is largely dependent on whether people enjoy it. ...

Those who stop will find it tedious, exacting or expensive. Those who stick with it are the ones who enjoy it, who are committed to it and who see the value to themselves and their family. I think it sounds like tons of practical fun.

I’m sure there is likely to be a lot of Ball jars in the recycle bin in the near-ish future, which is of less concern than ‘what’s gonna happen to all those backyard chickens?'
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