Monday, June 27, 2011

Ms Biscuits and Jam

Early in my academic career, I heard Male Colleague A verbally put-down Female Colleague B by labeling her Ms Biscuits and Jam. It was summer session. Blackberries were ripe. Ms Biscuits and Jam had been making blackberry jam and jam's required companion, biscuits. She had talked about this. Openly. In the hallowed halls of academe. Good thing she had not been churning biscuit-and-jam's friend, butter. Male Colleague A might have called her Cow Lady. Lesson learned: keep your jam to yourself.

Or maybe not.

You reach a certain age and being called names is amusing. I wrote a blog about hunger and a reader labeled me 'sob sister'. I found that educational. I had not previously heard the term.

So at great peril, I confess to you that this weekend I turned blackberries into seedless blackberry jam. I do not like blackberry jelly. If I did, the process would be simple. Or if my friends and family could tolerate the seeds, ditto. Easy. But no. We want the shrimp without the shell, the pecan without the foul tasting wood, the full blackberry experience but without those bothersome seeds that stick in the teeth. So each summer when the weather turns Alabama hot and the insects complain loudly in the noonday sun, that's when you know the blackberries are ready.

My husband of course had other plans for me, involving yard work. Yard work in summer in the Deep South means hot/sweaty/dusty/mosquito-friendly work. There is not much that can get you out of yardwark. But making seedless blackberry jam is one of those things. Everyone wants the jam but few are willing to sit there and prepare the berries and carefully, labor intensively, work them through the sieve, separating juicy sweet flesh from those hateful seeds. When you finish, every large pan and colander and sieve in the kitchen is purple. There are purple stains on the kitchen towels, the counter, the floor, the stove, my new shirt, and my right cheek. That's all very good, though. When the husband comes in for water, it looks like WORK has been done. Then when he comes back inside for iced tea in an hour, all the purple stains are gone and there sit a dozen jars of his favorite jam. The yard looks great, the kitchen is clean, and the whole time I have spent in AIR CONDITIONING.

Ah, you say. But you had to PICK the berries, and they don't grow in air-conditioning.

Yes, but they grow on a vine my husband's grandfather planted fewer than a dozen steps from the door. Smart guy :-) No need to grab a hat and insect repellent and head for the boondocks. You can pick them in your pajamas on a cool sunrise, a cup of coffee waiting on the deck.

So call me Ms Biscuits and Jam if you like. No sweat. Really. No sweat at all.

And my message to Colleague A. My seedless blackberry jam is much much better than any sorry poem you ever wrote. More people will enjoy the purple joy of my seedless blackberry sweet tang on their tongues than will ever recite your limp dishwater words.


Jeanie Thompson said...

Tell it, my Sistah! I would crawl on my knees to Sunset Beach for one of those jars of your jam, Ms. Biscuits.

Laurie Matherne said...

Nice post. Well written. I no longer live in the South. In fact I no longer in the US. But last week, I made biscuits, and I had jam. Not homemade. Not blackberry. But jam nonetheless. And... my Texas friend and I enjoyed them very much with real butter and strong coffee.