I used to spend most weekends with my grandparents when I was younger. My parents both worked long shifts on these days, and luckily my grandparents lived close. We would get dropped off early Saturday morning and spend all day playing and helping around the house and yard. We had a lot of fun projects that my grandparents would use to teach us secretly. I learned much about electronics from taking apart my remote control cars in Papa’s shop. We would make light bulbs work from batteries, and we even made homemade fans out of the engines of the remote control cars.
I remember all of this so fondly, but my favorite pastimes where with my grandmother. She would ask me to help her in the garden, where we would pick fresh beans and greens from the backyard. I would help her clean the greens and pull the beans out of the pods. It was fun at that age to be cooking in the kitchen with a real chef! After preparing the catfish, beans, corn, greens, and taters for the evening’s meal, she would reach high up in the cupboard and pull out and interesting device. After a long day of playing and helping straighten up around the house, we always new there was a treat in store. This was my all time favorite surprise! What was she going to do with these apples?
I didn’t realize what it was until I thought back on it, but my grandmother had a very small personal fruit press. In my experience, I had never even seen a fruit press before, and I later learned about the large community presses that farmers would share. When it dawned on me that she had a micro version of one of these, it made my memories even more special. We would take whatever fruits she had around and make homemade juices. They were so delicious with the bit of pulp that would make it into the juice. We would even freeze them to make slushies. We would use lemons, oranges, apples, and I even remember once pressing watermelon to get watermelon juice.
This was really all part of a lesson to never waste what you have. While making our juices, we would take what was left over and shove it into a mason jar. All of the skins, seeds, stems, and tough parts would go into the jar along with the greens’ stems and the bean pods. It was my special duty to take it out back to the garden and put it in the compost. She taught me how to respect the land and the food and to help the cycle of life continue. She was very crafty in the way she could feed a whole church crowd and produce so little waste. Honestly, the only waste we would have would be the containers that some of the food was bought in. Now with recycling, she rarely has any trash. Recycle, reuse, and reduce was the name of her game, and the lessons she taught me back then have impacted whom I am today as a conscious and eco-friendly member of my community.