It started with the cookies. When Barry’s Mom asked if we’d like a batch of oatmeal scotchies for the road, we responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” Oatmeal scotchies are Barry’s favorite, and we also looked forward to sharing them with my sister, Julie, in Eugene, Oregon.
Sharon also gave me a treat: A big bag of dried Michigan cherries.
A couple of days later, we were packing the van after a visit with Tom and Gudrun in Yelm, Washington. Barry asked if they had a little ice for our cooler. Instead, Tom gave us three frozen bricks of homemade pesto. This was in addition to the bottles of homemade wine he’d just given us.
And so we traveled south to Eugene, carrying cookies and cherries and wine and pesto.
The cherries were a big hit — we shared them with Julie in our morning oatmeal. The cookies were perfect after a long day of skiing with Daisy. And when we went to Ellen and Gary’s house, we opened a bottle of Tom’s wine.
“We have some homemade pesto, too,” I told Ellen. She whipped out rice crackers, put the pesto and some swiss cheese on them, and zapped them in the microwave. Because of the merging of Italian pesto and Asian crackers, she named them “Marco Polos.”
That evening, Ellen and Gary also gave us a huge 2-horned parsnip from their garden. I thought I would make a pressure cooker stew in a few days.
A couple of days later, they invited us to a potluck dinner with their friends Barbara and Joe. We took along some more of Tom’s pesto, and when Barbara found out we were traveling, she gave us two more gifts: Homemade applesauce and elderberry jam. It was a joyous coincidence, because we’d once lived with a dear friend, also named Barbara. She’s gone now, but she made the best applesauce and elderberry jam in the world.
We were planning to visit that Barbara’s son Michael in southern California, and we couldn’t wait to share the elderberry jam with him.
And so each precious gift we receive travels down the road with us a little ways, and then we stop and share it. Then we receive another gift, which makes its way to the next stop. And the cycle continues.
We continued to the Bay area, where we visited Jeannie and Cliff and Jerry. We shared more wine and cherries, and they gave us oranges for the road.
We finally made it Michael and Doeri and Eliza’s house, with our offerings of elderberry jam and homemade wine and pesto. Remember the parsnip? It got roasted instead of stewed!
And in the middle of a conversation with Michael about a completely unrelated topic, he stopped me and said, “When you leave, don’t forget to take your jam!”
When we left, he gave us many jars of his own elderberry jelly, peach jam, and burnt kumquat marmalade to enjoy and share. He’d made them for Christmas, but a kitchen remodel interfered, and they never made it into the mail. We were delighted to receive our Christmas presents in person in April.
Now we’re in San Diego with Bonnie and Chuck, eating Michael’s elderberry jelly on sourdough bread, along with fresh-picked oranges and grapefruit.
The cookies and pesto and parsnip are just fond memories now. The cherries are almost gone, too. But we still have plenty of homemade wine and jam to share, along with something sweet and crunchy to replace the cookies — caramel corn from Barry’s Aunt Jo.
When we left home, we weren’t planning to gather food and share it all the way down the west coast. It just happens that way. As Gordon Bok sings, “Everybody puts their cookin’ hat on when you’re leavin’ in the morning.”
We’re leaving Bonnie and Chuck’s in the morning. The van seems a little overloaded, and I think we’re carrying more food than when we left. That just means we’ve been falling down on the job — we need to share it!