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08/28/2012 @ 9:13am

I am a man of vast and varied talents.  I try not to brag, but sometimes the world just needs to know.

Over the weekend, I made relish.

A couple gallons of it, actually.  And it looks great.

There was that one broken jar, and this morning we’re short of bandages and one jar of relish would technically not be suitable for a vegetarian, but other than that – complete success.

So here’s the story, because I’m guessing you can’t wait to hear it.

My wife’s been laid up for a couple of weeks, with a few more left to go.  There was surgery, stitches, pain and vast discomfort, along with strict orders to not lift anything weighing more than a gallon of milk.  That’s a shame for her and all that, but let’s keep the discussion focused on me, and my needs.

On a regular basis my wife does a lot, quite a bit of which I don’t know much about.  There’s her job, about which I understand little except that she regularly gets a paycheck.  Then there’s the way she keeps the family in contact and fairly content.  There’s cooking and cleaning and flower beds and lawn care and cat maintenance…just no end of stuff.  And all of a sudden, she wasn’t doing any of it.

But, and here’s the troubling part, a lot of it still needed to be done.

Years ago I wrote a piece explaining that the reason the president has time to run the country is that he doesn’t own the house he lives in.  Yeah, well, now I know why you never see photos of the president tending the Rose Garden.

I wasn’t worried so much about the giant rabid dust bunnies lurking in every corner, and I knew the lawn could be whacked into shape this month or next, but the tomatoes and cucumbers wouldn’t wait forever.  We ate gigantic salads at every meal, but we were rapidly losing ground. I had no option but to try my hand at canning.

I’ve successfully avoided this job for over half a century.  Leaning over steaming kettles on a hot August day always seemed like a mistake.  As long as other people were willing to do all the work just so I could enjoy some summer sunshine in January, I was willing to avoid it the rest of my life.

But plans don’t always work out.

My wife chimed in on the important parts – the sterilizing and hot water bath, for example, because we agreed that actually killing people with my cooking would be a bad thing.   Otherwise, I was on my own.

The first batch took forever, what with all the chopping.  It was then that my wife wandered through the kitchen and pointed out that some people use a food processor instead of doing everything with a knife.  I wish I’d known that from the beginning, because the first few jars aren’t really relish – they’re just jars full of half-cut up vegetables, because I got too bored to make really tiny pieces.  This is also the batch where I sliced the tip of my finger off while trying to cut up an onion with my eyes closed.  

In hindsight, I wished I’d done a better job of sharpening the knife.  While it never feels good to cut yourself, the sensation of cutting yourself with the jagged edge of a half-dull knife is way worse.

Oh, well.  The kitchen table is lined with jars that look more or less the way they’re supposed to, with their little tin tops dented in just the way the book says they should.  I would really like to take a moment to bask in the glory, but I can’t.

The next batch of cucumbers is ready.

Copyright 2011 Brent Olson

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