from the pages of an old diary – blueberries and other local foods
My new writing project, ‘growing and gathering’, focuses on local foods and finding food close to home.
A source of information and inspiration for me is the set of my great-aunt’s diaries, written from 1943 to 1972. From her diaries, I have a very good idea of how they obtained their food, and how they used local foods to supplement their needs.
Most of their food was obtained from the grocery store – in 1957, there was at least one grocery store in the community, and by 1967, they had an IGA. There is no doubt some goods came from ‘away’. For example, my great-aunt wrote about making coconut and pineapple squares for a Women’s Missionary Society meeting (Sept. 30, 1957).
Local goods, however. were used whenever possible. For example, my great-aunt bought eggs from her sister, and chickens from her brother. She also obtained vegetables and raspberries from her brother’s farm, apples from friends and relatives, deer meat from friends and relatives, and lobsters from Wallace, a near-by community. By 1967, my great-aunt and great-uncle also kept a garden at her brother’s farm, a few miles away.
Obtaining local foods included picking local berries. In July and August of 1957, my great-aunt went four times for wild blueberries. Her gratitude and pleasure at getting these berries comes through in her words: ‘ got quite a few’ (July 31, 1957) and ‘got a nice lot.’ (Aug. 21, 1957). She also wrote about picking grapes and currants.
Some of the berries were eaten right away – for example, my great-aunt made a blueberry pie on August 1, 1957. The rest was preserved for the winter. On August 16, 1957 my great-aunt put up 5 quarts of blueberries, to supplement the applesauce, pears, peaches, sweet cucumber pickles, and tomato chow she mentions preparing on other days. Others in the family also made preserves and shared them with her – in 1967, her nephew (my uncle) brought her three bottles of peach, apple and choke cherry jelly he had made.
an offering of berries
she stands on the stoop
offers a box
a brimming pint
I take her hand, we ripple
through the pasture, strew
blue ribbons over bushes, stir
a blueberry jelly sky, dance
she waits on the stoop
her brow a riddle, please
take this gift, blueberries
in a simple
Warning: 1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification; 2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives; 3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.
© Jane Tims 2012