this (pickled) life
MUM loves to pickle food. If something grows in the ground, it’s guaranteed she will transform it into a rainbow-coloured concoction in a recycled, sterilised jar.
What’s in it? “My own recipe — a bit of this and that — and lots of chilli and garlic!” she answers with enthusiasm. Everything is “yummo and delicious”.
The howling Fremantle doctor batters her suburban backyard, and the resilience of Mum’s over-loved fruit and vegetable plot is admirable.
Mum secretly expects to open her front door and discover gifts of appreciation on her doorstep: chillies, olives, garlic, eggs, tomatoes and cumquats — even the daily newspaper. The generous givers of stuff are rewarded with gleaming jars of preserved fruit and vegetables, to savour the various seasonal produce all year long.
Mum treasures her relationship with the local fruit and vegie stall owners, and her excitement of a bargain exudes her passion. The jumbled collection of various sized jars and icecream containers full of mixed-up lids, saved by family and friends, line the shelves of her walk- in pantry like rows of loyal soldiers standing tall and still, waiting to serve their dutiful purpose.
My daughter visits her Big Nanna on school holidays and is coerced into a fun-filled frantic frenzy of cutting, chopping, mixing and cooking. The fact Mum can encourage her undomesticated granddaughter to assist and enjoy such a messy and labour-intensive task is a small miracle. Mum’s eyes light up when my teenage son tells her he eats his pasta only if it’s cooked with Big Nanna’s tomato sauce.
Sometimes I take her kind offerings even though chillies and zucchinis don’t do much for me, but she has the ability to make the humble zucchini palatable when it’s hidden in among other unidentifiable ingredients.
Mum’s favourite pastime is to boast about her preserved achievements: “A friend of my brother’s who knows a chef raves about my pickles and says he wants it on his menu!” And she conveniently forgets to tell the unsuccessful tales, such as how one homemade over-spiced recipe sent a dinner guest rushing home in a sweat with chest pain and false fears of a heart attack.
My teenage daughter returned from school to tell us that her English teacher asked the class, “If you were a tree, what sort would you be?” to which she immediately replied: “A Guava tree because it reminds me of my Nanna.”
It seems that it’s not the object that matters but the experiences and love that go into that object’s creation that initiates the transformation of life. Review welcomes submissions to This Life. To be considered for publication, the work must be original and between 420 and 450 words. Submissions may be edited for clarity. Send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org