“What do you do for fun around here?”
That’s the question new hires to Tripod, the web company I helped found in Williamstown, MA, used to ask when they moved to our 8,000 person college town to join in the madness of the first wave of the web economy. The first person to ask the question of me was Margaret Gould-Stewart, a graphic designer who’d moved north from New York City.
At the time, I was sitting on the floor of my office with three other Williamstown geeks, reveling in the takeout Chinese food we’d just had delivered – DELIVERED! – from the nearby metropolis of North Adams, MA. The idea that a restaurant, other than a pizza parlor, would deliver was so radical that the answer to Margaret’s question was obvious: “We order takeout Chinese and sit around an eat it.” (She was unimpressed.)
I now live two towns south of Williamstown in an even smaller town. No takeout Chinese here. So the answers to the “What do you do for fun?” question have gotten a bit more rural in recent years.
This year, the answer to the question appears to be: “pickle vegetables”. I spent Saturday morning picking two and a half gallons of brussel sprouts so we could fill 12 pint jars with sprouts, hot peppers, garlic and pickling brine. (You say you don’t like brussel sprouts? You’ve never had pickled brussel sprouts… Or maybe you’ve never had my pickled brussel sprouts.) As we boiled, sealed and cooled the jars, Rachel and I realized that we had nowhere to put them. We put the year’s canning output on the dining room table, looking for space in the pantry to store the bounty… and finally ended up comandeering a TV table as an extra shelf for the new dozen jars…
As I looked at the 60+ jars we’d filled, I had one thought: “I should really buy stock in the company that makes canning jars.” So I visited the Ball Company website. No information on canning to be found – their “packaging” section features metal beverage and food containers as well as plastic containers… but nothing on canning jars.
It seems that Ball is a little embarrased by their canning heritage. On a page titled: There’s no such thing as bad publicity, is there, a Ball PR flack complains that reporters continue to be amused by the fact that a company that makes canning jars also makes aerospace equipment: “The company that makes those old canning jars also does other stuff.”
But hey, Ball – I don’t buy very many aerospace parts. Nor do I buy much industrial can stock. I realize that investors are probably more interested in aerospace than home canning… but there are net-connected rural Americans out there who’d love to see that you’re not embarrased by your home canning heritage.
(Kerr Group, the other major producer of canning jars, is just as bad – you can find information on tamper-resistant closures, but not on Kerr’s jar lids.)
I’m guessing, in the American culture of victimization that allows conservative republicans to claim that they’re being persecuted, despite controlling all branches of government, the failure of canning product manufacturers to acknowledge their role in food preservation makes me a persecuted minority.
Who’ll join me in starting a movement to demand that Bell and Kerr recognize that real Americans preserve food? That our great nation is based on guns, guts, and home-canned vegetables? Rise up, America! Demand your right to make pickles without persecution!
Say it loud: “I home-can, and I’m proud!”
Update: my neighbor (and member at the same farm where I pick my brussel sprouts), Doug Hacker, has shown his commitment to the movement, producing this handy graphic for fellow Picklers to add to their websites. Soon we will bring the anti-canning forces to their knees!