The Grape Passage

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

August 22, 2011

a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, top slice ...

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All Levi wants lately are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We used our home canned jam a few weeks ago, so we had to get a supermarket supplement. For the second supplement, we chose grape jelly. Levi had an initial preschool protest, but afterwards he’s been asking for it. My husband and I will eat it, but grape jam is never our first choice. We bought it because it’s cheap. Yes, I realized, we have entered another right of passage: Grape Jelly.

I complained to my mother, “Grape again?” My husband quietly loathed the addition to his peanut butter sandwiches. There is only so long one can do cheap when it becomes over bearing and the better cost option would be simply to not purchase it.

I grew up detesting it while it was in school lunches, on the weekends, during the summer. Rarely, we’d have strawberry, a delectable treat with which to decorate our peanut butter and white bread.

Then, I found myself purchasing my own groceries on a limited budget, like when I sold books door to door. Suddenly, I was buying the awful jam myself, willingly because it was the cheapest! I had tipped the line from grumbling about what my parents put before me to grumbling about what I provided for myself.

I wonder, often, about how food affects us and how it shapes us. Whenever we visited my grandmother, there was no grape jelly. Instead, there was a wide variety of home preserves. I recall strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, mixed berries, and cherry. Sometimes, even blueberry jam. Never, not once, do I recall Grape Jam/Jelly being offered at my grandmother’s home. The peanut butter was different too. The peanut butter, while stored in the cupboard, was often tipped upside down. And, it had the oil still in it! My mom would purchase Jiff or its economy equivalent. So, this peanut butter that required stirring was almost culture shock.

What amazes me, as an adult looking back, was this rustic way of living was what my mother grew up with, and like many of her generation, abandoned. Now, a skipped generation later, I find myself relearning the things my mother took for granted. I bake my own bread, 90% of our meals are home cooked from scratch, and I work towards preserving summer in jars for seasonal eating throughout the year. Occasionally, though, we run out of those goodies and a trip to the grocery store is in order. It seems Levi will not escape this Grape Rite of Passage.

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