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Transformation tales of a jam maker

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I am the main cook in the house – I enjoy cooking but there is a member of the family who loves to cook more than me. She is just passionate about it. Excited to be trying new recipes. Excited to be learning new ways of preserving, baking, or simply planning meals the family can share on days she’s home. The joy of cooking, she says, is the miracle of the transformation– the change from the single, raw ingredients into tantalising, appealing and delicious things to eat.

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Such a transformation occurred last summer when the old, wild fig tree at the bottom of the garden came back to life, laden with fruit

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Most years the figs ripen and we have the fun of discovering them in passing – picking one or two and enjoying their juicy, sweet and meaty texture. But one or two are enough, leaving the rest to the birds.

Not this year. For she who loves to cook had other plans…figs for jam!

Learning to make jam is not easy. After first experimenting with batches of marmalade, there was the frustration of it being just a little bit runny. The next marmalade experiment was with pectin and it came with the disappointment of the marmalade being a little too hard.

It often can be this way when learning to do new things- arising frustrations and disappointments – the strong emotions that come when our expectation are different to our experience.

Some people’s first experiences of mindful meditation can be similar. The distraction of a busy mind wandering off again and again as we try to watch our breath, leaving us frustrated instead of relaxed. So when we expect meditation to transform our stress – we find it initially can enhance it! Yet it is said that practice makes perfect. And so it is with jam as much as it is with meditation.  This is because the purposes of the meditation is to be mindful and observe the frustrations as they come and go – not react too them – for its in those moments of observation that we gain insight into our old habitual patterns of reaction and have the choice to change our responses – and that’s what transforms us.

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Like the fig tree giving up her figs, letting go is our choice too. Letting go of how it should be – letting go of the judgment of good or bad – letting go of the striving to ‘be perfect’. Replacing it instead with an attitude of curiosity simply observing what’s there or acknowledging for example “Ahh that’s what frustration feels like”
And so it was with the jam -the adventure of going to the bottom of the garden.
The fun of picking and bringing a bounty of figs home.
Figs, washed, chopped, cooked and ‘jammed’ into the pristine clean, sterile jars that had been collected and waiting for this special moment.

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The mixture that emerged from the saucepan transformed the raw notes of the wild figs into something wonderful. A delicate pink, sweet caramelized fig jam now graces our morning toast allowing the summer flavours to linger well beyond the season. And even more, provide a sweet reminder and happy memories that were ‘cooked up’ that day that warm our hearts.

So for us this year we were blessed by the practice, practice and more practice of one dedicated young jam maker and by a bountiful fig crop. The transformation of our raw figs into jam, meant they had a new life way beyond their usual short season. With mindfulness practice, the raw moments that cause our usual suffering can be transformed and create a new life for us too.

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