27 Aug 2014

It's all jam. Let it bubble.

'I'd never have imagined you in a place like this,' my brother-in-law said last year as we were walking through the apple orchard talking about fruit, new trees, bees and home-made jam. 

Bramley Apple Trees
I've known him since I was about 12 years old. He married my sister when I was 17. He was on the sidelines of my 'glory' years in the 1980s: that's the superficial glory of too much make-up, big hair and a wardrobe bulging with party clothes rather than any particular achievement. Unless you call walking in 6 inch stilettos while wearing a strapless silver sequinned boob tube and 'spray-on' lycra lilac jeans an achievement. Actually, I'm beginning to think it was! 

30 years later. This summer my day to day wardrobe has consisted mainly of cut off jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops or wellies, depending on the terrain. (Wellies terrain includes long grass with evening slugs, log collecting in the wet, the nettle choked bramble hedge that skirts the orchard and, occasionally, Tesco's.) Instead of foundation and blusher my face has been regularly smeared with blackberry or damson juice and ash from the bonfires where we've burned the trimmed tops of the alder windbreaks. Sometimes I look back at the Martini-drinking party girl and wonder if that really was me. Do you have past selves that seem more like completely different people, not just different aspects of your personality? People you might not like much? People you want to grab by the shoulders and shake? 

Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about the person you were 30 years ago.

But it's all jam, as the title of this post says. Every single thing I've done, achieved, lost, wasted; every experience I've had, positive and destructive; all the people I've met, lives I've enriched or depleted; all of it has boiled down, or up, to who I am now. Who is that?

Currently it's Jam-Maker. Apple, blackberry, damson, plum and now... onion. I know, there's something a bit icky about the words 'onion' and 'jam' together. But it's not chutney, it's not relish or marmalade. It's sweeter - caramelised onion and dark brown sugar offset with notes of balsamic vinegar and garam masala. 
Peel
Recipe? Hmmm... this really is a throw-it-in-cook-it-up kind of experience. Thinly sliced onion cooked slowly in butter until very soft but not browned at all, sugar and spice mixed in, the vinegar added at high heat then bubbled until syrupy. I started with 6 large onions, a large knob of butter, 100gr of sugar, a tbsp of spice and 100ml of vinegar. But I added more sugar to get the sweetness I wanted. We've eaten half a jar already, slathered on slices of mature cheddar.

Sauté
On top of being official Jam-Maker I am also writer, time-waster, tutor, click-clack maker, apple-picker, cook and cleaner, evening-sofa-slouch, family history researcher, aunty, step-mother and step-grandmother, part-time morning-tea maker, laughter lover, wine drinker, hula-hooper, moaner, table-tennis player, playmate to a cat, dreamer, lip gloss wearer, log stacker, rain-wonderer... I could go on. And on. You could too.

Bubble
Jar
If you'd asked me 30 years ago to tell you who I was I'm pretty sure I'd have been stuck after offshore banker. Not that there weren't other aspects to me (I was always immersed in a book, was learning to cook, I loved the sea...) but I didn't look inwards and appreciate them as things that mattered. And we should, don't you think? We should celebrate ourselves, our lives, share the things that make us who we are. 

Yay: 'Let your jam bubble!' : )