Blackcurrants, my father’s favourite, the harvest begins
Blackcurrants, my father’s favourite, the harvest begins
Our previous minister, Rev. John Hunt, (now retired), would sometimes offer the congregation ‘a sweetie for the sermon’. His sermons didn’t ever need any sweetening but he said a ‘sweetie for the sermon’ was an ancient Scottish tradition, and we, believers all, were more than happy to help preserve the ways of the old Kirk. So the baskets of sweeties were passed from one pew to another and we, smiling and laughing like young ones at a birthday party, selected our sweetie and, then, spent the rest of the sermon, trying to dislodge sticky toffee from our gums and teeth. ( Perhaps we were not as young as our hearts imagined 🙂 ) Gummed up or not, they were sweet moments, and, although, I remember not a word of the sermons, I do remember feeling content and treasured and loved. Sugar it seems is a powerful preservative of well-being.
In the spirit of ‘a sweetie for the sermon’, I am spending time trying to capture and preserve the sweetness of the current season. For there is much sweetness to savour.
There is the sweet fragrance and delicate tones of my dwarf sweet peas both outside
and indoors, mingled with scented rose.
Then there is the sweetness suspended in the flowers and leaves I am drying for my home-made potpourri.
Potpourri translates as ‘rotten pot/stew’, which, hopefully, mine will not be, if I have dried everything sufficiently well.
Additional sweetness comes in a friend’s seasonal gift of home-made Christmas mince pies; so delicious they are impossible to preserve except on camera.
They are a scrumptious-sumptuous combination of melt-in-your-mouth sugary buttery pastry and ‘ barely there tartness’ of rich, fruity mince meat; made, I am told, with the addition of apple and green tomato to the dried fruit.
So those are the sweeties. Now for the sermon. Sermon? What sermon? My mouth is too full of goodness to speak.
After several days of procrastination, my ‘apology’ for a real Christmas cake is finally in the oven, baking gently and moderately. That done, I can now take time to celebrate my mother’s homecoming from hospital which happened this past Saturday morning. And what a cause for celebration that is. The past few weeks have been full of pain and struggle but, at last, thanks to the loving care of my sister and brother, she is home again; home to convalesce.
To convalesce ; to recover health and strength gradually after sickness or weakness; to spend time healing; to grow strong….no busying and bending to a hospital routine; no poking and prodding and monitoring and measuring; no scrutiny from doctors and students and x-ray machines; only rest, deep rest,
food that pleases, gentle movement, and time, to heal the pain and weariness ; that is ‘to convalesce’, from latin, valeo, be well.
Convalescence, a forgotten way of life, perhaps, in a world that constantly sells us the idea of eternal wellness and vigour and exhorts us to either be healthy or healthier; that urges us to grasp ease without acknowledging dis-ease; that disallows our physical and spiritual need for times of frailty, by plying us with pills and potions and remedies for a rapid ‘cure’.
In older times, when illness, and home-based care of it, were more commonplace, recipe and household books often had sections with special dishes for invalids or occupants of the sick room. It’s hard to imagine someone like Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay producing a best seller containing recipes for the ‘InValid’, but our best-selling New Zealand Edmonds Cookery Book used to offer helpful hints like this…
And our famous Nurse Maude, founder of our community nursing service, suggested, in her book, oatmeal drinks and gruel for the patient’s sustenance.
I am not sure how well I would do on Nurse Maude’s diet but I would love a tray, such as this one, to arrive, in the early light, at my place of convalescence. Fresh flowers from the morning garden, blackcurrants from the home bush, creamy yogurt and strawberries, to nourish the body, and blessings and calm to nurture the soul.
A bowlful of rhubarb jelly and a handful of my own, freshly picked, blackcurrants —-
And some rhubarb on the side.
I don’t know if I will like eating the thyme flowers and the bay leaves; on their own, maybe, but not with a spoonful of jelly. Ice cream is more likely to be the accompaniment. However, I do know that I will like the rhubarb jelly. It is one of my all time favourite desserts, particularly if the rhubarb is slightly tart.
When I make a red jelly, I am immediately taken back, in my head, to my paternal grandmother’s kitchen. I am standing next to her at the kitchen bench watching her turn a packet of jelly crystals into a small bowl of jelly. No fruit, just jelly. It seems to me that she leaves it to set on the bench top. ( Were our houses really so cold back then? ) In the evening, we will have it with custard, sometimes a baked custard, cream and ice cream. It’s all delicious.
The bay leaves remind me of the custards she prepared. In her younger days she used to put laurel leaves in the custard. Not in my time, but I have heard the stories.
And, before I indulge in jelly, a special note to my parents, who do not share my taste for jelly, but love blackcurrants; I only have a handful of blackcurrants to decorate the jelly because I ate another handful whilst I was picking them. They are sweet and juicy enough to eat straight off the bush. No sugar required! You would be pleased.
To my great delight and utter amazement I discovered a flower on our kiwifruit vine this afternoon. I planted a male vine and a female vine about 3 years ago and this is the first flower ever. I had almost given up hope of anything but lush green foliage strangling the fence. I think it is a male flower so it remains to be seen if we get any kiwifruit this year. But, just to have a single beautiful flower seems like a miracle and I am content with that.
The miniature Ballerina apple trees are healthy and fruitful too. It makes me happy to see them so bountiful this year, but I am not counting my apples before they ripen! They still have to survive heat and wild, dry nor’westers before harvest time. More miracles required methinks.