The Politics of Jam

by Sue Weaver

Stirring the jam saucepan, I reflect how far I’ve come, full circle in fact, ending up exactly like my mother, stirring the jam saucepan. She left school at 14, worked through the war in the blitz, then like so many others, returned to hearth and home, a housewife, a mother, a jam maker.

Whereas I, through high pressure education, university degree, graduate job, failure at marriage, then the women’s movement, dungarees, liberation, consciousness raising group – I rejected all that jam making stood for: housewifely slavery, kitchen sink, boredom and drudgery.

Yet now, with the wisdom of age, what pleasure, jam making! It’s a statement all right, of liberation from the consumer society and from the industrial growth system that would have us shopping and consuming, buying jam in glass jars, fruit grown by industrial farmers, sprayed with insecticide and weed killers, picked by low paid agricultural workers, manufactured in a factory by more low paid workers, stuffed into jars and transported across the country in huge trucks belching out fumes and carbon dioxide. Usually sold at a profit that goes to investors elsewhere. At least our co-op belongs to us.

I make jam from fruit grown in the garden, or foraged from the hedges. Gooseberry, blackcurrant, strawberry, peach, blackberry and raspberry. Hedgerow jelly includes crab apples, hawthorn and rosehips, elderberries and rowan. I reuse glass jars many times over. I do buy sugar, fair trade obviously, but yes, I acknowledge that has been grown elsewhere and transported here. I use a lot less of it than you get in shop jam. Shop jam! Said disparagingly. Now I sound exactly like my mother.