Much has been written about taking the kids to college. The goodbyes, the empty nest, the homesickness. We have cried. They have cried. We have cried some more.
Now what? They are freshmen. We expect them to make new friends, adjust to the dorm, learn to be tidy, do their own laundry, get up for breakfast, go to bed at a reasonable hour, study, study, study, not to fall in love too hard and not to drink too much beer.
Academically, freshman year in many colleges and universities is one more year of high school, grade 13. It’s probably not what they thought it would be. While, skipping school in high school was a feat of daring, sleeping through that 9AM class, is just that, sleeping through that 9AM class. It is easily done and the consequences are not apparent to them at the moment. They are still at an age where immediacy is the rule more often than not.
The first semester grades come in-they’re good. Back they go, confident that they have this college thing nailed. Second semester ends, we look at the grades. Maybe they didn’t nail it after all-maybe it nailed them. But, taking the first semester into account, it is still cause for celebration. Take them out to dinner, buy them something they’ve been aching for. They made it through the first year. That is not a small accomplishment. Unspoken, of course, in that celebration, is that this is a one time deal. It was a lot to adjust to and the fact that they did, is to be applauded, but adjustment time is over. You know and they know that if there is a next time, there will be no celebration, but there will be some serious conversation. The kind of conversation they think they’re too old to have. When they go back in the fall, some of their friends will be missing. Friends who’s parents did not celebrate. Friends who’s parents pulled their financial support. Your understanding of the big picture will strike a chord in them. When they are juniors and sick of school and thinking there might be something better out there (there isn’t), they will remember that you didn’t say a disparaging word-that you trusted them and had faith in them and knew they’d do better.
Remember the first time you let them cross the street by themselves? That trust was built on weeks of walking them across the street, hand in hand, standing on the sidewalk, saying “look both ways”. Standing on the sidewalk, saying nothing to see if they looked both ways. Watching from the window, again, to see if they looked both ways. Yelling out the window: “You didn’t look both ways!” They learned that the consequence of not looking both ways was being hauled back across the street and a cancellation of the playdate.
You’re still in this together-you’ve only been through Empty Nest Part I. College is like preschool for life-one more street to cross. You have to trust yourself to know when to yell: Car is coming” and to trust them enough, that they know, on their own, when to step back up onto the curb. You’ve been doing it for years-dances, driving, dates. Trust them to look both ways and have faith that they know when it’s safe to cross.
THE MENU: We’re not cooking today. We’re canning another batch of giardiniera. We have been trying to make vinegar. Not to use in canning – for salad dressing. Our first attempt has not gone so well-it has gone in to the trash. We’re not discouraged.
- the peels of an organic pineapple, roughly chopped
- 1 quart water
- 1/4 cup organic sugar
Mix sugar and water until sugar is disolved. Put peels in a small crock and pour sugar water in to crock. Cover with a piece of cheese cloth. Place crock out of direct sunlight. Once liquid has turned brown, one to two weeks, strain out the peels. This is the first ferment. You may see the liquid bubble as the sugar is turned to alcohol. Strain out peels, cover crock with cheesecloth. You will see globules of a white gelatinous substance. That is the the “mother” (like the starter for sourdough bread-it is a living thing). The liquid may start to smell a little funky during the second ferment. Don’t worry. It is moving through the fermentation process from alcohol to vinegar. As time goes on, it will start to smell like vinegar. Ours did for a couple of weeks but still had the funky smell. Then the mother disintegrated, sank to the bottom and it had no smell at all. We think it failed because we had it in a bad spot (too much temperature fluctuation) and the fact that we used a glass jar that didn’t protect it from the light. We have an apple cider vinegar fermenting now. It’s starting to get the funky smell but it looks good and has a hint of vinegar and apples as well.
Once it smells only of vinegar, taste it. If you think it’s ready, strain through cheese cloth several times, and store in a class or food grade plastic container. Do not use metal lids as it will react with the vinegar and spoil it. Hopefully, in a few weeks, we’ll be enjoying a salad made with our homemade apple cider vinegar.
NOTE: The easiest vinegar to make is wine vinegar. Wine has already gone through the first fermentation. Just put the dregs of an opened bottle in a crock, cover with cheesecloth and wait. We never seem to try the easy way first.