Tuesday, August 30, 2011


My friend Keetha, from down Winona way, is a writer of blogs, of cookbooks, of prose capturing the heat of the day,  the swell of a proud heart, the tastes and feel of a wonderful Southern town/family/way of speaking and thinking and cooking.     Her own blog Write Kudzu was one of the first on my sidebar when I began Lawn Tea, and it's always a treat to see it blink on at the top (kinda like the "Hot Now" sign on Krispy Kreme).

Today, she's again taking a simple, wonderful thing, and relating it to cooking, memories, family history, and the carrying-on of traditions in one of the best ways possible---doing things like a dear Grandmother did---because of love, of connection, and because it WORKS.
One way of being green:

My grandmother kept a pantry full of them: mason jars, Ball jars, mayonnaise jars.  She didn’t have pickle jars, because she made them. Neither did she have jelly jars because she made jelly and jam, too.  I picture her buying canning jars one time, early in her fifty-year marriage. She used the same ones over and over. Like most people her age, she was frugal. Those jars were practical, a way to store foods.

She’d be amused, I think, by how popular mason jars are now. People decorate with them, up-cycle them to use as vases and gifts. High-end home magazines show them all over the house, looking stylish and chic.

I’m right there with those decorators, in love with jars. There is something so pleasing and restful about the shape of canning jars. They give the eye a place to rest. 

An old Ball jar sits on a shelf in the kitchen.

An empty jar, a brand new canning jar, with a lid, sits on my desk for no particular reason except that I like it.

I have a quilted glass jar that is filled with dirt from the site of the first house I remember living in in Shelby, Mississippi. The house was empty and falling in when I was in high school. I must have told myself a hundred times to stop and get a brick, a doorknob, something from that home. I never did. Eventually the old house was knocked down and everything taken away. The Mississippi Delta earth in a glass jar is what I have of it.

I like old jars. I like new ones. They’re simple and reusable and attractive.

They’re great for gifts of food. I was hunting up something to put a batch of toffee in that I was giving as a little “happy.” I didn’t want a Ziploc bag, or a plastic container, or even a cellophane bag. I snapped the toffee into wedges and filled a canning jar with the buttery pieces. It was easy and it looked great.

There are a couple of reused jars in my pantry filled with white beans and popping corn.

I’m drawn to old ones at thrift stores and gravitate toward boxes of new ones in the grocery store aisle next to the picking spice.

Like my grandmother, I keep empty jars in the pantry. I have pasta sauce jars, pimiento jars, jars that held marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and pickles. No mayonnaise jars; they’re all plastic now.

I like having the jars to draw from, and using them over and over. I love finding that kinship with my grandmother, my mother’s mother, who's been gone some five years now. Alzheimer’s had taken her from us ten years before that. Here something as simple as an ordinary household item keeps a connection from me to her.


Southern Lady said...

I grew up with Mason and canning jars and have wonderful memories of my grandmother and grandfather filling them with all kinds of good things. My mother has carried on the tradition with her Mayhaw Jelly, and we all treasure the pretty little jars of jewel-like jelly, not only because it's delicious, but because of the love and tradition handed down from one generation to the next in its making. Thank you for rekindling those memories for me today, Rachel.

Mental P Mama said...

Just beautiful...and takes me back. I need to honor my mother and grandmother by doing this. And I already have a collection of jars that is just sitting in the cupboard. Empty.

Jennifer said...

Your grandmother would be amused, but more than that, Keetha, she'd be so proud of you! She was such a lovely lady - both inside and out. Your mom and you remind me of her and that's a true compliment! I love jars too and have carted a blue mason jar of my grandmother's to Europe and across this country several times. These pieces of our past bring comfort wherever we go.

Jeanne said...

Hi Rachel, go ahead...write about the mama bird. smile.

All the jars in our family, new and lots of old all get used. In fact my sister and I canned tons of tomatoes the other day and she ran out of quart jars. Secretly I was glad. I was plumb worn out from canning those tomatoes. Smile.

A jar never gets passed by when we are on the hunt for them. Our Aunt Maudie, My mother's older sister and the dearest aunt ever,taught my sister how to can tomatoes. She has been gone many years now but always remembered for so many loving things she did for us. Memories are forever as long as we pass them down. That's what lasts. I love this post and I must visit Keetha soon.
Love, Jeanne

Beverly said...

I still have one of my grandmother's canning jars. I use it to hold fresh blooms and memories.

Keetha said...

Thanks, everybody! Such kind words. My grandparents got married on this day, September 1st, 1940. My grandmother's birthday was September 2nd.

racheld said...

And thank YOU, Keetha, for such a lovely, memorable piece. I especially love the dirt in the jar---I have little dirt samples from several places I care about.

And how nice that the time of the post fell near two of your grandmother's milestones.

Kim Shook said...

What a wonderful post, Keetha! I have roots in Shelby, too. My grandmother's family (Tirelli) lived there at some point in the early 1900's, I think. I also love jars and dutifully wash and reuse almost all of them. The old Ball jars are my favorites, though.