5C rhubarb; 20C shredded zucchini; 6 pints applesauce; 2gal cider; half a pig, including 12lbs bacon; 1 pint pesto; bags of carrots, kale, peaches, green beans, green peppers, roasted tomatoes, whole tomatoes, wild blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
We have a chest freezer. It’s in the basement, next to the oil tank and the fuse box, and it’s big. It has a light inside, and two raised baskets for little stuff to float over the big stuff in the bottom. We’d been saving up for the purchase, tucking away birthday money and cash from odd jobs – and waffling back and forth between buying used and potentially losing thousands in food if the thing crapped out, and spending more to buy new while consuming all kinds of resources for the production of a new appliance. Ultimately, the risk of food waste combined with a great sale led us to purchase a brand new ice box with a good name (Also – I know that freezing food as a means of putting by is fraught with risk in terms of disaster preparedness, but believe it’s still a solid step in the right direction).
I spent the summer filling the freezer portion of our side-by-side kitchen refrigerator with all the odds and ends I could get my hands on. As things ripened, I’d use what we could, and then I’d chop and blanch and freeze whatever was left. When we picked 14lbs of strawberries this summer, I stuck several canning jars into the freezer, choosing the ripest ones that wouldn’t get eaten before going bad. The less firm blueberries met the same fate, tucked away for baking this winter. We supported our former neighbors who raised our pig and the local butcher who cut and wrapped each piece, and invested in more meat than I know how to prepare. I didn’t even plant zucchini this year and yet I have 20 cups shredded and frozen, thanks to neighbors, friends, and a mama at story hour who were all blessed with excess. This little bit of food security was a community effort, a tangible symbol of how friends and neighbors take care of one another in a way that is not always visible in every place.
It’s also a symbol of real privilege, of hard work and how far we’ve come over the past three years. As homemakers, we know that you pay less per unit when you buy in bulk – but the caveat is that your wallet still needs to have enough cash in it to cover the larger dollar amount required to choose that bulk package. It doesn’t matter if the roll of TP in the 24-pack is cheaper than the single roll if you can’t pay the higher dollar price of the big pack. That’s the reality for a lot of people, and it certainly was our reality for a long time, so it’s not lost on me that the ability to have a freezer (and with it, the ability to stock up on things when they’re at a good price) has a far deeper value than what you see physically sitting in our basement.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the definitions of success. And if you’ve been visiting me here for any length of time, you’ve probably established the sense that we don’t exactly ascribe to a consumerist philosophy. While I haven’t laid it all out, we’ve been working hard to craft our own definition of success for ourselves and our family, sharing it here in bits and snatches, and (hopefully) modeling it – and the more confident I become in that definition, the further we go, the more strongly I believe in the importance of multiple definitions of success. The fancy car/corner office/5 bedroom/corporate ladder plan is not the only option for being successful. There is more out there that we can aspire to, with completely different benchmarks.
So in our case, right now, success looks a lot like a freezer, and the community that helped us fill it.