Reminiscing & Research

When our garden is in full swing, I pull out all the canning supplies and fill our fruit cellar shelves. Just like my mom before me, I can tomatoes, salsa, plums – whatever we grow.

Even though the containers I use for preserving produce are glass jars, I’ve always called it ‘canning.’  I never gave a thought to the word ‘canning.’ Until this past week when I learned that ‘canning’ takes its name from a time when preserving produce was actually done in cans. Who knew?

Last week, I shared growing up country stories from my memoir with the residents at Valley View Village a senior living facility in Des Moines. The average age of those in the audience was at least 80, maybe older.

Many came to the meeting room in wheelchairs, using walkers or with assistance from staff. But what they lacked in physical capabilities, they made up for in mental sharpness.

As I talked about my stories of growing up in the 1950s, they remembered their own experiences growing up before and during the Great Depression. Roosters chasing them. Fixing meals for threshers. Milking cows by hand. Gardening and canning. 

Hearing stories of the older folks who come to my book talks is rewarding on so many levels. One is that as they’re reminiscing, I’m doing research for my novel. They talk about cooking on wood stoves and shocking oats for the threashers, and I’m making mental notes of details that may work their way into my novel.  And then all of a sudden they say something totally unexpected – like canning was done in cans.

Those unexpected details are the best. Fun for me to learn something new and perfect for adding reality and depth to my writing.

I have to spend more time talking with these folks.

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