Grapes and the circle of life …
As we approach the precipice of autumn, I am reminded of the grape vines that flourished in my Grandparents’ back yard. It was remarkable that these immigrants, who were at one time the owners of large farms in Italy before the war, were able to still cultivate a “small” suburban farm in their home in NY. That tiny back yard bared the fruit of fig trees, tomatoes, basil and last but NOT least; red grapes.
Making “jelly” was a huge project that was undertaken every fall, under the direction of my Grandmother. It consumed an entire weekend as it was a multi-step process.
1. Harvesting the grapes … picking them from the vine, which was messy and tedious
2. Washing the grapes and placing them in a HUGE metal pot
3. Cooking down the grapes on my Grandmother’s big porcelain stove in the basement
4. Extracting the juice from the cooked grapes by separating them from the skins and pits very carefully so not to stain everything in the path of the red grape juice
5. Adding sugar and appropriate ingredients until the texture and sweetness were just right. This was trial and error since my grandmother did NOT use recipes
6. Placing the “jelly” in the multitude of “jars” that had been saved over the year. They were jars from peppers, artichokes, pickles, etc. of every shape and size. They were disinfected by boiling
7. Once the hot liquid jelly was poured into the jars it was “sealed” with hot wax and then closed
8. The “jelly” was then allowed to cool and solidify
9. The homemade jelly would be distributed to family, neighbors, friends and even teachers for their enjoyment …
10. Some years the jelly was “delicious” and some years it was “tolerable”
As I look back at this painstaking task, I see some symbolisms to the circle of life itself:
We grow up and hopefully mature. Finally, when we are “ripe,” we are “picked” and formulated into something that is beneficial, and even pleasing to others, until we are no more …
The process renews itself yearly with new grape seedlings, allowing our legacy to continue….