Photo: Valerie Gordon
But a few years ago at a farmers' market in Santa Monica, I got carried away and bought a whole flat of strawberries. I had some notion of making strawberry shortcake for a dinner party. Then I remembered Gran's strawberry jam. I had never put up preserves before but thought, "Why not?" So I made my first batch—and it was disgusting. I hated the flavor and pectin texture, and I threw it away. Then I tried again; the memory of Gran's perfect, pristine jam goaded me on.
Making batch after batch of jam opened a connection to my past that had been dormant for years. What started as a hobby became an obsession. I've made jam every week and sometimes every day for the past two years. I give jars for birthdays, Christmas, thank-yous—any excuse to share it with friends.
A lot of kitchen work is lonely. But when I'm putting stuff up, it's the opposite of lonely. I sense I'm in the company of family memories. Those strawberries I bought on a lark feel like my destiny now. —As told to Margaret Rhodes