"You want to what?"
"I want to can."
"I heard that, but WHY do you want to can."
"Look," I said, "it's weirder to me than it probably is to you, but I just want to."
"I hate canning," my aunt said before hanging up and after promising to send Auntie Alice's, Ball Blue Book - Easy Guide to Tasty, Thrifty Canning and Freezing.
The book arrived yesterday. It's bound with three staples and a display of plastic fruits and vegetables doused in water to convey freshness. The book was published in 1974 and it's like new.
My great aunt, Alice, made notations by the pickled beets and mint jelly. The jelly for the lamb Uncle Henry raised I'm sure.
There are tips on destroying molds, yeast, bacteria and enzymes with cartoon illustrations that do nothing to reassure me.
There are recipes for marashino cherries, pear mincemeat, dixie relish and a victoria sauce made with rhubarb that call for alarming amounts of sugar but set my imagination whirling none-the-less.
I will not be making carrot jam or rummage relish. But I do like the sound of a kumqut marmalade. It's poetry if nothing else.
The cute guy likes the recipe on the back cover - How to Preserve a Husband .... sweetened with love and seasoned with kisses.
There are conversion tables, troubleshooting spreadsheets. There are tips to can without sugar or salt, instructions for freezing which I've already negated (they call for scalding). There's a chart for altitude, a list of vocabulary words, canning time references.
There is everything except Grandma or Auntie Alice in the kitchen stirring and explaining. Yet they'll inform the canning more than the Blue Book. An invisible circle is being drawn and while I move forward I'm also stepping back for inspiration and instruction.
I've even convinced my aunt who hates to can to do it with me for a day. "It'll be fun," I keep telling her. Grandma and Auntie Alice would get a kick out of it. That's for sure.
"You want to what?"