I was considering today how different my life is from anything I could have expected even 10 years ago. Back then I had just split from my partner, was teaching a third grade class, living in Oregon and making apple butter and dried figs from two friendly trees in a nearby park. My class had a wonderful allotment growing so many things I couldn't have imagined being able to grow back in Scotland: peppers, chilies, tomatoes, pumpkin, cucumber, beans, squash, corn and sunflowers. There were so many new experiences and so much I couldn't do.
I'm still having new experiences and there's still so much I can't do, but so much has happened too. It's incredible to think how 10 years have passed by so quickly and yet that time seems very long ago.
I was thinking about this today for two reasons: firstly it's almost time to make our Christmas Pudding. The first time I made it outside the UK was with that third grade class. What fun they had when we lit it on the last day of school before Christmas. I'm still in touch with a few of those kids, it's hard to believe they are 19 going on 20!
And secondly, I was sharpening my favourite knife. This knife is now my current oldest possession. It was given to me by a mother in that class when I first moved to the US in 1997. It's the only material thing I have left from that period. It has remained with me through relationships, jobs, over a dozen house moves, climates, environments, emotional and physical upheavals, times of peace and times of chaos. It has served me well, and it's only in this last year that I've learned how to sharpen it with a stone. It's a soothing experience this sharpening: the sound of the blade against the stone, the rhythmic circling, the feel of the slurry as spit mixes with stonedust. Something ancient and absolutely human: connection with all the cooks, butchers, barbers, sailors, warriors, scribes, woodchoppers, gosh just about everybody who ever wielded a knife since man first worked with metal.
Time flies. But back to the present. I needed a sharp knife to slice kumquat. I'm making kumquat marmalade and the fruits need to be cut thinly. Kumquats are a small citrus, orange in colour, with a good tasting rind and not much flesh. They are somewhere between a sweet and a sour orange in flavour and acidity and make a very nice marmalade with good flavour, colour and presentation. We have two trees and they are heavy with fruit. I also want to candy some kumquats for the Christmas pudding I'll start making in about 2 weeks time. Lots to do, isn't it great?