Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Coffee and Canning Tips

Yesterday I was early for a meeting with a client at my favorite little local coffee shop and the place was packed. I got my coffee and then realized that every table was taken and everyone seemed settled in. What to do? Then I noticed someone sitting alone with his coffee and a muffin. He is a nice gentlemanly guy who used to own one of the big fishing boats here. We see each other around town and speak so I went over and asked if he would mind if I shared his table. He said he would be pleased to share. Thus began one of the most interesting half hours I have had in a long time.

He grew up in Sicily he told me and he still speaks with a heavy accent although he's been here for nearly sixty years. He came here in his early teens, married, bought a fishing boat and raised a family. He told me about what it was like to fish out of Gloucester back then --- quite and adventure and quite an opportunity for a young man with ambition to make something of himself. And that is what he most assuredly did. “I love America,” he told me, and, in the keeping of so many immigrants who come here in search of a better life, he has done well. “Here,” he said, “if you work, you can have whatever you want. I love to work.”

And work he does. After selling his boat a few years back he bought a new business here in town and that is going well also. And then there is the work at home.

“I just came back from a big farmer's market,” he said. “I bought 750 lbs. of tomatoes. My wife and our two daughters are canning sauce.”


“Yes,” he said. “Last year I bought 600 and it wasn't enough.”

So we talked about canning, a tradition that my family also practiced. I told him about making sauerkraut, a hundred gallons of sauerkraut at a time. He told me about the different sauces his wife makes and about the fresh, homemade pasta she makes at canning time for them to enjoy with the first batch. It was a wonderful conversation to have over breakfast.

My client arrived and he said he had to go, he had an appointment shortly and then he said, “Thank you for sitting with me.” Thank you for having me, I said. This was a treat.

When my client returned with her coffee I told her about our conversation. “Oh,” she said, “My husband just came back from the farmer's market with 150 lbs. of baby cucumbers. He loves to put up pickles.” I asked if she was from New York or Pennsylvania and she said yes, how did I know? You said “put up” pickles --- you never hear people say that around here. In Pennsylvania we put up pickles, too. Or put them by.

The world is a crazy place sometimes --- it moves too fast and often people seem so disconnected and alienated but it is mornings like that which serve to remind me that there are still wonderful moments to be had. Moments of sharing with someone new, moments off connecting, and of realizing that people on the whole might be a challenge but on an individual basis can be quite wonderful.

I guess as long as we can find time to share a cup of coffee and talk about the things and the people we love and swap a few recipes life will be okay. We just need to take the time.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Lately I've been having wonderful encounters just like that! And since Bob and I have started canning i've been surprised at how many people still do can or are getting back into it. we put up corn, tomatoes, tomatoe sauce, pickles, and green beans this year.

  2. This morning when I went out for a walk, I met a neighbor I'd never seen before. When he found out I was an artist he invited me in to see his collection of textiles from his Peace Corps stint in Afghanistan and Sudan...the things you learn when you stop and say Hello.

  3. Any chance of getting Nino's sauce recipe to post?


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