By Nancy Doty
This article was published as part of the March 2018 edition of the Villages Northwest Newsletter.
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Today was a day of making ‘clean-out-the-refrigerator’ soup. At first I thought it was a little weird, looking in the refrigerator’s produce bin, trying to figure out what to keep and what to send to the compost. But the celery, although a little limp, was still green and clean. The onion had a green spout, but nothing serious beyond that. And the orphan carrot was fine, as was the parsnip. Parsley, still looking pretty fresh. .. A left over baked potato got chopped up and thrown into the pot. And the asparagus ends that I saved from the roasted asparagus mid-week looked like a logical addition. So into the crock pot it went, with the leftover chicken stock and a little seasoning, set on ‘low cook’. Several easy hours later, and with the quick whirly-choppy action of my immersion blender — Voila! Soup.
But the mere process brought me back to the days spent in the company of my grandma, Rosella. (Never mind the fact that I was sent to spend time with my grandma who was charged with straightening me out—as the sassy, recalcitrant daughter who needed a lot of straightening out!)
My grandma from Saskatchewan was a farm girl, one of too many children whose mother died young. So Grandma was sent into service in the home of a wealthy Victoria family. At some point my grandpa was called to the home to do some carpentry work. He met my grandma and the rest, as they say, was history.
Fast forward many years to the small farm in Long Beach, WA. There I was sent to learn manners and respect for ordinary household rules. And, under Grandma’s wing, in her loving care, I learned to bake, cook, sew, garden, clean, and recycle.
Use, re-use, repurpose, recycle… making do with next to nothing new! Garden produce was cooked, frozen, canned… Rubber bands saved and stretched into a ball; foil wiped clean and set aside to reuse; plastic bags rinsed and hung to dry; cans opened at both ends and smashed flat… Anything burnable went into the stove. Suitable peelings and scraps were set out for the ducks and chickens. Anything compostable into the compost pile waiting for a turn with the spading fork. Flour sacks became a little girl’s camisoles and slips. Old clothing was taken apart and remade into something more fashionable –and usually smaller, as Grandma’s house dresses became skirts, dresses, and pinafores. My favorite winter coat was made from an old Harris Tweed jacket my grandpa no longer wore. (We didn’t mention that it no longer fit.)
And so, the simple act of making ‘clean-out-the- refrigerator’ soup transported me to the care and nurturing I received beside my grandma. There are so many lessons learned that have been with me all these years. And that set me to wondering about the impact I may have on my own grandchildren. There are so many lessons that can be imparted without much effort—just by being ourselves and sharing values, skills, and most of all, our time.
And for those who don’t have grandchildren or at least grandchildren that are near enough to have the opportunity of shared time, we can still share time with others. And no, we don’t need to teach our neighbors to cook or sew, but we might ask them about their own early family recollections, early learning experiences, their skills, their favorite pastimes.
Telling stories, reminiscing, and recalling ‘the old days’ can be a lovely way to get better acquainted. Time given to our neighbors, time to share of ourselves will never be wasted. It is one of the most precious gifts we can give. And it doesn’t cost a penny.
So visit with your neighbors. Hear their stories and share a bit of your own history in exchange. When it comes to memories and lessons, reuse, repurpose, recycle. And enjoy.
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