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Maybe Jelly

I now have nine jars of very thick, very sweet grape juice.

I’ve always kind of believed the old, “when life gives you lemons make lemonade,” thing. But I don’t know what the hell to do with this stuff.

I was shooting for grape jelly. Sadly, as is often the case when I shoot at something, I missed.

On second thought, I shouldn’t have said that. There are reasons this isn’t my fault.

First of all, I’d like to blame lazy birds. A few years ago, I stuck the top ten feet of our old windmill next to the garden and planted a grape vine at the base. It was kind of a whim, but every now and then we get a bumper crop of grapes that need to be dealt with. If I’m lucky, the birds swoop in and clean up the vines, and I can pretend to be upset. This year, no birds AND we had good crops of both tomatoes and jalapenos, which used up my wife’s spare time.

With a couple thousand years of hungry peasants in my heritage, I can’t handle the guilt of letting food go to waste, so one afternoon when I couldn’t think of anything more important to do, I picked a five gallon pail full of grapes, ran them through the grape press, and then stared at a couple gallons of grape juice.

I bottled some of it to mix with club soda for kind of a sober mimosa. It’s a pretty good drink that I believe I invented. Although, I need to warn you – I don’t add sugar, so it’s…tart. You know that scene in “Braveheart” where the old Scottish dude gets stabbed in the chest and they run a red-hot poker in the wound to sterilize it? He screams, punches some guy in the mouth and says, “That’ll wake you up in the morning, boys!” It’s a little like that.

I thought I’d make the rest into grape jelly.

What happened next is, I believe, due to Russian meddling. I don’t know why they’re fooling around with my jelly enterprise – between messing with our election and the fact that as a country, their motto could be “screwed up for a thousand years,” I would think they’d have enough on their plate without planting packages of expired pectin in my pantry.

I rummaged through the canning supplies and found jars and lids. We had enough sugar and, wonder of wonders, there was even pectin in the back of the pantry.

Well played, Ivan. Well played.

Nine jars of jelly are easily a year’s supply for the two of us, so I was pleased with my day’s work, even before I heard the “tink, tink, tink,” of jars sealing.

I was less pleased the next morning when I picked up a jar of jelly and it sloshed back and forth like the bilge in a cheap rowboat.

The jars are sitting on the kitchen counter now, staring at me reproachfully every morning.

You need to understand, this is not my wheelhouse. Yes, I did run a restaurant, but that involved carefully chosen recipes that featured low skill levels and patient customers. There’s a lot - a lot - I don’t know about the things that happen in a kitchen.

And you know, I don’t care all that much. My life is busy enough that even nine jars of failure can only hold my attention for just so long.

But I plan to take one more run at it tomorrow. If I quit now, the Russians win.

Copyright 2020 Brent Olson

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