THE CONSCIOUS KITCHEN: PRESERVING SEASONAL RITUALS
To Transition from Growing to Preserving: The Lost Art of Seasonal Rituals
My partner and I just finished our last batch of canning this week. Many hours spent over a hot stove, boxes upon boxes of canning jars, a bounty of homegrown goods and lots of wine later- we have a fully stocked pantry for the colder months to come.
Most of us in the "West" have 24/7 access to the grocery store, so one might ask why on earth we would spend our limited warm weather time in the kitchen when we can just hop in the car and get everything we need right down the road.
When we first began this ritual, I found myself asking the same question, especially since my time has become even more precious as of late. The answer was far from obvious, but when I realized what was underneath this seemingly tedious task, my soul settled into a new found contentment.
Below, my six favorite reasons for why I love to explore canning, preserving, drying, dehydrating and freezing our summer bounty.
1. Kitchen work is meditative
Think about when you draw out your favorite cutting board and your best knife. You tie your apron on and pull your hair back, signaling that it’s time to get to work. You take your basket of tomatoes out of the fridge and begin to rinse them, one by one under the cool water, ridding them of any bits of earth that decided to make the journey from the garden. These beginning steps of preparing a batch of canned tomatoes are so simple, which is what allows us to quiet our minds. Canning is like yoga in that it matches simple, repetitive motions with the breath. If you can find the tie between the two, you’ll begin to notice how relaxing this work can be.
Give it a try next time you’re in the kitchen. Slow down. Match your breath to your work. And take notice of where your mind goes and how quiet it becomes.
2. We grow closer in the quiet
I have never had a partner as loving, adventurous, giving and supportive as the man in my life now. I am so grateful that we connect on virtually every level. We do most everything together, which is fantastic. But. I have always been one who needs my time alone. Most of the time we end up doing this work together in silence. We never intended for this to be our “quiet time,” but because the work is inherently meditative, and we both know what we’re doing in the kitchen (this helps immensely!) we don’t have to exchange too many words to be connecting in this ritualistic moment.
3. The harvest [almost] never goes to waste
How many times a week do you throw away fruit and veg because it has sat in the bottom of the fridge crisper too long? If you garden, how many times do you end up giving boxes of food away because you grew too much? Or worse yet, letting it rot on the vine. As a culture we end up throwing away so much food. Because we try to can, dry, freeze and dehydrate as much as we possibly can we have dramatically decreased the amount of food waste in our household. You can do this not just with homegrown foods, but your CSA or store bought groceries as well! Is your spinach on the verge? Freeze it for smoothies. If your apples are bruised and not quite as crisp, cook them down in a crockpot to an apple sauce and pressure can them.
4. Physically preparing for winter is one of the oldest forms of signaling the body for seasonal change
Ancient civilizations have always had different ways of preparing for the colder seasons; in Native American culture it was very common to have week-long celebrations with dancing, singing and feasting to welcome the change in seasons, in addition to repairing their homes and sun-drying and smoking as much food as possible. Because of our modern technological advances we aren’t forced into preparing as much for the winters; we still have access to food unless a natural disaster occurs. Or if you live in Upstate NY and are buried under 10 feet of snow!
That physical preparation isn’t just done out of necessity; it is a cultural tradition, one that also prepares us mentally and spiritually for a quieter, colder, more yin time of year. By stocking up and spending that time getting ready to transition, our bodies and spirits are better able to adapt to the change when it does come.
5. It allows us to eat locally even when we can’t eat seasonally
One thing I’ve been focusing on this year has been to eat closer to home. I made a vow not to visit the grocery store this summer since we were growing so much from home, getting a weekly CSA and regularly visiting the farmers’ market. While that vow was definitely broken more than a few times, I did manage to eat a lot more local food than I have in years past.
Eating locally and seasonally is somewhat easy to do in the warm months when the harvest is abundant. But with about 4 months of frigid weather coming my way, thinking about eating locally seems next to impossible. I know I won’t be able to eat quite as locally for the next few months, but knowing that some of the frozen and canned veggies came straight from my garden will be a comforting thought to hold me over until spring.
6. There is nothing quite like having a bite of summer in the brutality of the winter
Do I need to say much more? Cracking open a jar of homegrown tomatoes in the dead of January is about as close to summer as you can get. While those tomatoes aren’t quite as delicious as the warmth of the sun on your bare skin, they do a decent job making the winter months a little more bearable.
Happy harvesting, preserving + transitioning!
Holly is a health coach and personal cook. Through her creative work, she motivates women who have a fierce desire to get healthy by asking the tough questions, provoking accountability and sharing her *mad* skills in the kitchen and around the home.
Her passion for sustainably raised and home cooked food has fueled the quest for improved health and wellness for both her and her clients. If she’s not in the kitchen whipping up a new dish, you can usually find her rocking her most recent cooking workshop, brewing excessive batches of kombucha beer, creating content for her clients, playing in the garden or eating veggie tacos over a glass of red wine with her favorite humans.
If you’re into getting creative with real food and drink, gardening, fermenting, simplifying your spaces, connecting with your local community, getting weird with nature, creating space in your life for the things that really make you light up, and being an all-around badass at living a more organic life, tune into her new column for Loam, The Conscious Kitchen.
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