Thursday, November 17, 2011

I just remembered something


I bought this jam because I thought that I was stuck in a rut with the jam I always buy. Experiment, you know. I thought it was a good idea to try something new. I'm not tired of the old jam, but the world is full of jam to try and if I keep getting the same kind, I'll never know what the other ones are like. So I bought this, because it's not like the usual berry-what-what I already know I like. Plus, the color is attractive.

And then it made me feel very...uncomfortable. There was something odd about the jam. It tastes alright, I suppose, for sure it isn't yucky. Third party confirmation says it's actually pretty good. There was just something about it that made me feel uneasy. Not texture either, if you're wondering, that part's fine. The jam was reminding me of something I couldn't put my finger on.

This morning I remembered. Dad used to make jam from the leftovers of his fruit cordial experiments. He would take vast quantities of fruit and boil them down into syrup, ferment it slightly, then punch it up with vodka. There was always a pile of amorphous brownish fruit precipitate left over, and being a crazy chinaman, Dad could never bring himself to simply throw it away. He would add a bunch of sugar, cook it down into a paste, and put it in cans. There were a number of these still in the basement until the late 90's, I think. Because of the treatment it had received, the fruit lost any individuating characteristic it may once have had. No matter what it started out as, it all ended up as a sepia colored paste, with a flavor profile consisting largely of table sugar and a whiff of inadvertent caramelization. Only once to my memory did he make something that retained a unique quality, and that was when he used pineapple. My Freddies jam experiment tastes like what Dad might have come up with if he knew, or cared, what he was doing.

Dad was a tremendous cook, but only when he stuck to what he grew up with, so to speak. He had neither the palate to comprehend western cooking, nor the ability to admit it. Preserves of any kind as Americans understand them were totally beyond his scope, along with any type of pastry that was not deep-fried, European style bread, cheeses of all kinds, and any number of vegetables native to the western hemisphere. Squash? Hah. Corn? Forget it. Chick peas? That's "food for pigs". One time he tried to make a lemon cake. It tasted like burnt rubber and had a textural resemblance to a spare truck tire. The only cake he ever managed to learn how to make was a kirsch torte, and that was because he learned the recipe by rote from a neighbor lady, and never deviated from it. Which is remarkable in itself, now that I think about it. I have to admit that my tendency to improvise recipes is undoubtedly derived from his.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful description. I immediately remembered the one time I was in your basement. Jen