The Hundred-and-One Small Things
“They were always doing something. Quietly, without interruption, and with great concentration, they carried on with the hundred-and-one small things that made up their world.” ―Tove Jansson, Moominpappa at Sea
When we spent the long summers at Georgian Bay, my wonderful father always read to us, even as we did the dishes, and one of the more remarkable series he read to us was Tove Jansson’s tales of Moominvalley. She also, it turns out, spent her summers on an isolated, water access, world full of stories, but one that made mine look like an urban paradise. She was the daughter of artists, and her family spent the summers on a beautiful remote island off the coast of Finland:
and I am frankly jealous. According to one biographical sketch, the family’s keywords were freedom, responsibility, and family loyalty.
She created a marvelous imaginary world that reveals a deep understanding of human nature: a cast of otherworldly characters that includes the most marvelous Snufkin, the Hemeulin, the Snork Maiden, Mymble and Little Miy, the Grook, and, of course, the Moomins themselves:
[The exciting little white fellows are Hattifatteners]
I still remember walking home from the library after taking out Comet in Moominvalley when I was six and we were living in London.
One of the Moomin books that is particularly relevant to our world here has the lovely metaphoric and literal title: Moominpappa at Sea:
And if you will bear with me, here is the opening of that fine novel:
Having left you, I hope, anxious to know when and why Moominpappa packs up the whole family to go and live in a lighthouse[!!!], I would like to turn to the hundred-and-one small things that we carry on with, while waiting for the valley to erupt in flames. Or to quote Tove Jansson one more time, “I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes, and dream.”
Which brings me to the fabulous canner I asked for [and got] for Christmas 2 years ago.
I never knew I wanted one, really, having grown up to fear pressure cookers as deadly things that should be locked up. But the lure of being able to preserve things without dying really got to me, and the range of foods you can store is incredible, if sometimes inedible. We ate the last of the tomatoes (not from my garden - flowers grow but vegetables just feed the urban night bunnies) last week and I am about to make crab apple jelly, harvested from the neighbours’ tree.
While it does not require the fabulous canner, the canner and our local market reminded me of all the things that are easy to preserve. I have always liked making jam, which turns out to consist of berries and sugar, a recipe even a blond can make! The canner opens many new horizons, however. It is fabulous because it does not have a gasket that can decay, and even though it acts like it is trying to escape sometimes, it is too heavy and the lid really clamps down. There is still the projectile thingy on top to worry about, but it can be poked with a long stick from a distance fairly safely.
I intended to can bacon last year, but failed for a number of reasons, mostly character-flaw related, but also because I did not get an adequate supply of the good bacon from near Penetang which I crave, and I also had a very unfortunate ‘recovery’ from an operation. But I digress, and if I digress into my hernia, you will begin to squirm and rock and agitate like a pressure cooker, wanting to escape.
Before that happens, let me throw open the floor to discuss perchance the more domestic aspects of being sensibly prepared for disruptions in the new normal way of things, many of which preparations used to be the old normal way of doing things. [And of course any actual breaking news, or particularly funny things, or new dogs, or ... even excellent children’s literature - I have few illusions as to holding the course with this crew aboard.]
So who’s growing what, and what are you canning? Does anyone else dream of canning bacon? What hundred-and-one small things can we do?