These are the months of the school year when teachers will tell you we make the distance with students. There is just something about the pace of human learning that requires a sizable amount of time to establish rituals and practices that lead to deep consolidation during the winter months. I am also groping to consolidate a lot of my own learning. I’ve recently adopted a principle from the short motivational book Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield: Begin before you are ready. Whether it’s cooking, trying to take a photograph, or learning a new technology application, I can continue to read and research or I can just try to do it. Research indicates that we learn quickly that way, but the deep practice of those skills often requires more uninterrupted time than I can make.
This week, I’ve hit upon the mantra of small batches. It came to me last Saturday when Allan and I saw rows and rows of strawberry punnets at the market. We haven’t eaten enough strawberries this season yet, and both of us had a craving for some strawberry jam. Not long ago, I would have purchased several kgs. of strawberries and then my Sunday would have been pretty much dominated with jam-making. I had a realization, though. We didn’t at all want enough strawberry jam to last until next Christmas. We’re not concerned about saving the strawberry season to distribute throughout the rest of the year. We just wanted a little jam this week and maybe a little more in another week or so and then a couple of jars to give away. I made up my favorite Donna Hay jam recipe in a small pot with ingredients I already had on hand: sugar, a vanilla bean, and a few lemons. I had some jars with sealable lids, but it could just as well have gone into the refrigerator. It took no more effort than making a side dish to go with dinner.
Now I’m thinking about other things in life that I can small batch. Getting to a blog post is one, for sure. I have several multi-themed blog posts in my draft file waiting for the right photograph or some finishing writing, but I have a few minutes this afternoon and I’m just going to think small about strawberry jam and its transformational symbolism, that’s all. Working on another language is another. It’s hard to find time to lay out the grammar book and have a study session, but with Duolingo on my phone, I can get at least a few words of French out of my mouth in a day, and that feels like progress. Small batching means enjoying the rewards of a reduced-sized project when the alternative might be no project at all.
I posted this recipe three years ago now, but I think it bears sharing again. The flavors are bright , and using the natural pectin in the lemon seeds to thicken the jam makes me feel extra self-satisfied.