Babane, Anane & Kaynana make jam: A lesson in leading, following and collaborating

Cooking raspberry jam

Cooking raspberry jam

This month, I am reflecting on work as part of the Blogher NaBloPoMo challenge. And I sure have a lot to say on the topic when it comes to my job at the University.

But if I really think about it, one way I really learned how to work was by watching my Granny and my Grandmother work hard for the family through providing nourishment and healing.

Often, this involved growing things and cooking things, But what comes to mind most is jam. Yes, you read that right, jam as in sour cherry jam, quince jam, gooseberry jam or raspberry jam. No jelly need apply.

For the Turks and Turklishes out there, My Granny was my anane and my Grandma was my babane. And let me tell you, those women knew how to work.
They made everything for breakfast, lunch, dinner a cold or a belly ache, by hand, usually from scratch, and often with items from their kitchen gardens. I barely remember them outside of the kitchen, truth be told.

In the summer, the kitchen gardens were a major source of important bits and pieces. My babane, for example regularly harvested of a snitchet of chervil, dill or chives from just outside the kitchen door to add flavor to a dish.

My anane, on the other hand was more likely to look for raspberries, gooseberries or rhubarb in the back garden for jam – but also for the occasional berry fool or pie or pastry. But she also had an herbal garden on the south side of the house where she grew medicinal herbs That went into twisty concoctions that made my nose curl. I’ll leave those vile concoctions for another day’s description.

What was most memorable about watching my anane and babane work was the process of home canning in the summertime – and that’s where I learned all about leadership and collaboration.

Let me tell you that is hard And dangerous work, canning vegetables and fruit over massive boiling pots in a house with no air conditioning in the height of July afternoon. My babane canned a lot of tomatoes… But I was rarely there to watch it. I learned more about watching her stretch them through the winter season into all sorts of meals, usually a nice spaghetti sauce.

In late June, my mother and my anane would always make raspberry jam, gooseberry jam and a mix of raspberry gooseberry jam. They made so many home canned wax sealed jams that we had them all year long, and you could really taste the sunshine in them.

And I saw that all that hard work they did, sweat dripping down their brows furrowed with the bird’s feet of deep concentration about the viscosity of the bubbling sugary mixture, and whether it was “time” – that “time” thing meant that the magic of jam perfection had been achieved. I still act the same in my own work, although it isn’t jam I produce.

In many ways, it is the images of the raspberry and gooseberry jam making that allows me to relate to my kaynana or rather the stories about her, in which she would make great steaming vats of sour cherry jam, M.’s favorite, so that he could enjoy it for as long as it would last. It’s a romantic image for this American lady,the making of some exotic sounding jam that we don’t have here.

Yet, I know full well from watching my anane make gooseberry raspberry jam in the sticky swamp of a hot Cape Cod summer, that this was no feat for the weak hearted. It is all you can do to avoid hot splatters of red green jam that easily make sugar burns like odd egg-shaped freckles on your arm at a rate faster than sunburn In the noon day sun. Work has consequences, despite it’s necessity. I Watched my anane lead at some point when she was the expert, and I watched my Mother lead at other points as she was the heavy lifter. There was leading and following and collaborating in consideration of whether the jam was ready or not. It was a dance of leadership, collaboration and following all at different moments with different pirouettes.

When my babane died, at her memorial, I remember that she was the one who taught me that the work of preparing food is love. But teaching a young woman to cook for her family and modeling that for all to see is also a lesson in the work of childrearing & responsibility, jam or no jam.

So in answer to today’s Blogher NaBloPoMo daily prompt for writing on work, which was:

Do you feel most comfortable being a leader, a follower, or a collaborator?

I would have to say, it depends on what type of jam I’m making that day. So thank you to my anane and my babane for teaching me about the necessity for all three roles in my work life.

This entry was posted in Family Challenges, Gendered moments, Turkish Food! and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Babane, Anane & Kaynana make jam: A lesson in leading, following and collaborating

  1. Alan says:

    . . I’m a socialist so it would have to be a collaborator as we refuse leaders and followers 🙂

  2. Sandra Y. Espinoza says:

    amazing how our different life experiences, especially when young, lead us to various ways of being and doing at work…and in the kitchen.

  3. What a lovely story about your grandmothers! Sounds like you learned a lot from them when you were a child just like I did with mine.

  4. Kathy says:

    Great story. It sounds like they filled your life with blessings and a lot of great jams!


  5. Thanks for this lovely post! For me, it depends on the situation – but usually, I’m most comfortable in the collaborator role!

  6. E. says:

    Thanks screen and ginger, I really appreciate the comment. I have enjoyed starting to get into your blog. As for the collaborator bit, it’s interesting I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. On the face of it yes I too feel I am best as a collaborator. But as someone who started my career being the facilitator of a feminist collective where we had the goal of coming to Consensus to a point, and after years of slow faculty meeting where nothing gets decided, I’ve decided that there are times where in collaboration we need facilitators I guess they would call that leaders. And that requires that there are times when you follow. So I think it is not as simple as all that. My friend Alan over at The blog archers of okçular Is about to engages in a debate about that though. Best to you, Liz

  7. E. says:

    Thank you so much for your comment, I am really glad you enjoyed the story and found it beautiful. It makes me blush that you said that it is so nice to get feedback. I would love to hear about what your grandmothers would think about your current world and your Turkish Joys. By the way the yule log cake looked beautiful. Best, Liz

  8. E. says:

    Hi Sandra, this is so very true. If you had to write a blog post about that, I wonder what it would be. What do you remember about growing up in Chile in the kitchen that shakes who you are now, I wonder. Best, Liz

  9. E. says:

    I’m so glad that you wrote this, Alan. Of course I know the socialists would take disposition. Now first of all, as a former facilitator of a feminist collected where everything was done collecting collaboratively, meaning consensus to a point, it took eight hours to decide where to order the next paperclips from. I nearly lost my mind. Of course we talked about more interesting things like that. For example, every year we held rape crisis training and rape awareness weeks and take back the night events where we slept out in the open to protest the lack of safety for women. And it took a long time to decide how we would run those events. But what I learned in that process, was that even in collaboration, there are times where leadership is needed, and followers are needed, even if you do not name it as such. What do you think?

  10. Alan says:

    . . collaboration is where it’s all at, where everybody giving and taking – not necessarily equally. This way of working is so alien to most people that the skills and disciplines have to be learned and the process takes time – often extended as new people join a group. Sometimes, a committee of one feels like a good option! On socialism I recall fellow party member Oscar Wilde commented that socialism was the only way but that it took up too many evenings!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s