Alright, everyone. Let's sit and think back for a moment. Can you remember a time when money was nothing more to you than silly slips of paper that grown ups played with? Sure, the coins were fun. At least they were shiny, and you could flick them at little brothers. But in the end, the stuff wasn't really worth troubling with.
Think back to long ago, before you had a house, apartment or car, before you even had braces or text books. Was there a time when you didn't need dollars to get what you wanted?
Sometimes when it's drizzling outside and I'm sitting with a mug of tea, I can recall a time when it hadn't yet dawned on me that that money makes the world go round. Oh, I must have been quite young, 7 or 8 at most, and the whole world was at my chubby fingertips.
Once, when I was hankerin' for a new dress, my friend Nichole and I sewed awkward, smock-like garments and wore them proudly on our stroll around the block. Then we sewed matching ones for our little brothers, who unfortunately didn't share our excitement.
Then, when I wanted some perfume one day, I dissolved a number of my mom's fancy-smelling face products in a cup of water and added a few drops of food coloring for effect. "C'est magnifique," I'm sure I told myself of my Paris-worthy potion. Or at least I would have if I had known a lick of French. What I actually said probably sounded closer to "tubular."
And one time when I wanted a fresh-baked treat (and my mom had successfully hidden the cookies), I ground up cheerios to make a flour-like substance, added water and mixed it into a dough. After giving it a quick zap in my EZ-Bake oven, I smeared on some jam and ate my lumpy, cheerio-crumb 'cake' with glee.
Then there was the time that I traded my "slug-mud cake" to my little brother for his big hole in the ground. Who got the short end of that deal? Goodness, it's hard to tell.
It wasn't that I didn't have access to the regular conveniences of any polite suburban home. And I certainly spent my fare share of afternoons whining for ice-cream or drooling over the newest "My Little Pony." It's just that the scraggly pack of neighborhood kids I grew up with got some measure of satisfaction from doing things for our gosh-darn-selves. I have to believe that these experiences were not unique to my childhood. Well, okay, maybe these experiences were, but I'm sure you have your own stories to tell about how you bartered, sewed, cooked, and created your way through your formative years. Do you? I do hope you share...
Now that I'm (gasp) grown, working two jobs, and living in a bustling metropolis, it's so easy to forget the joys of occasionally disconnecting myself from the 'currency grid.' After all, it's not often these days that I bust out my home-steading skills to prove I'm not wholly dependent on modern conveniences.
That's why I spent my afternoon making jam.
Yep, jam. If you had visited my kitchen earlier this afternoon, you would have found me standing in a splattered apron, shaking a wooden spoon in the air, and shouting, "take that, Smuckers. See who needs your jelly-like products now!" Then I sat down and ate some fresh baked biscuits slathered with my exquisite lavender-scented strawberry jam. No EZ-Bake oven required.
P.S. The jam whispered in my ear that spring is just around the corner.
lavender-scented strawberry jam
method adapted from "Good to the Grain" by Kim Boyce
3 lbs fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp dried lavender flowers
1. Put a plate in the freezer (you'll need it later). Fill a large bowl with ice and a bit of water. Set a slightly smaller bowl to the side.
2. Hull strawberries and cut the larger ones in half so that all the pieces are roughly the same size.
3. Put 1/2 cup water in a heavy-bottomed, large pot. Add sugar and wait a moment for it to dissolve.
4. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until there are large bubbles moving slowly across the surface, about 5-7 mintues.
5. Add the strawberries. Cook, stirring constantly for 20-30 minutes until the jam reduces down into a jammy-texture. Near the end of the cooking time, add your lavender. If you have a candy thermometer, cook the liquid until it reaches 210 degrees.
6. When you think it's done, place a spoonful onto the frozen plate. It should thicken up to the proper texture immediately.
7. Pour all the jam into the smaller bowl, and place in the ice bath to cool. You can give it a few stirs to speed up this process. When the jam has cooled, store it in an airtight container (I like little jars).
Keeps for 2 weeks.