Memories of Perfect Canned Peaches

Seasoned with oregano and thyme, Jim Long cans peaches as a child.

| April/May 2004

"Miller moths!” I heard my mother shout with disgust. She peered into a spice can and quickly replaced the lid. Mother was making a cake and had just discovered her spice cabinets were “lousy with those pesky bugs.”

After lunch, I saw a grocery bag filled with all the spice jars and tins from Mother’s cabinet sitting outdoors by the trash. “May I have these?” I asked.

She gave them to me for my play grocery store but told me not to bring any of them inside for any reason.

Betty, the only other child my age in our little town, and I played together nearly every day. Next door to our house was an abandoned house, once home to an elderly lady who had died. Her furniture had been removed, but outside, under the shade of an old peach tree, sat her big, cast-iron wood cookstove. The stove was a remarkable thing to my 6-year-old eyes. It was a marbled sky blue, which was, and still is, my favorite color. It had a double lower oven, an overhead warming oven and six burners with iron lids. There were also little storage drawers for kitchen utensils, along with a side tank for hot water storage.

When Betty showed up to play in the afternoon, I showed her my treasure of spices. We opened the lids of each can, bottle and jar. Innocent-looking gray moths flew out, fanning us with the fragrant, spicy smells. There was oregano, thyme, allspice, ginger, cloves, garlic, nutmeg and turmeric. We not only smelled each spice, we tasted several of them, too.

Putting the big grocery bag of spices into my little wagon, we pulled it across the alley and into the neighbor’s weedy yard. We lined up our spices in rows in the overhead warming oven of the stove.

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