This is the most beautiful jar of honey. It fills a Ball canning jar to the brim, the Ball jar itself evoking mid-century jam-making. I can buy a crate of Ball jars at the grocery store, of course, but the image of a woman in a cotton apron at the stove, stirring a pot of berries and sugar sixty years ago, has more pull.
The Ball jar summons up wholesome, from-scratch cooking, before slow-food and locavore existed as terms. Now that the terms do exist, my honey is not only beautiful with the setting sun lighting it up and making the clear glass shimmer. My honey is also philosophically and politically pure. No bees were harmed. This honey comes from an organic farm on the slopes and valleys of Orrtanna near my home. It was an end-of-harvest gift in my CSA share. Community-supported agriculture, the new utopia. In the spring we paid for a share, and our local farmer Jane S. planted crops, and every week we picked up a reusable tote bag of vegetables and herbs. We experienced weather in an unfamiliar way, our share growing in good weeks, and shrinking with heavy rains and early frost. As an inconsistent and inexpert gardener, I appreciated the immensity of Jane’s work.
I haven’t opened the jar. The jar is so full that I know it will be a sticky affair. And don’t tell anyone, but I don’t like being part of a CSA.
I like picking out my own food. I did not like the sight of eggplants and kale in my tote bag. I thought I could be open-minded, and meet these pristine vegetables with a joyful attitude. With the aid of a vegetable cookbook Jane thoughtfully supplied, I could try new recipes. Braised celery! Rutabaga wedges! Sunchoke salad! Here’s my confession: I have never cooked an eggplant. Kale was an inedible restaurant garnish in the 80s, and though I washed, stemmed, steamed and seasoned it, no alchemy occurred. I prefer to shop at the farmer’s market (with a basket, of course, eschewing plastic bags, fitting in aesthetically with the jog-stroller-pushing, unmadeup, espresso-sippers around me), choosing conventional strawberries and corn.
The CSA didn’t change me. It fed my sense of moral superiority. “I’m in a CSA.” “We have to pick up our CSA share.” “The asparagus is from our CSA.” Note: add “smug” to the long list of personal flaws. If only I had as uncomplicated a relationship to this jar of honey as Winnie-the-Pooh! If only I could say “simple” instead of “uncomplicated”! For god’s sakes! If only I could say “for God’s sakes” without worrying about offending Christians! The other day, middle and youngest child watched “Pooh Grit,” a parody of “True Grit,” employing the characters from Winnie-the-Pooh. Very little is simple or sweet these days!