Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sharing Secrets

I've worked in retail for more years than I care to admit to.   One of the skills you need to work in retail is the ability to talk to people, all kinds of people; to be able to talk about what you're selling, to make your goods or your products appealing to the customers that walk in your store.  Like a carnival hawker.  Bring them over the threshold, hook them in, and make them spend money.   I like to think I can start a conversation with anyone.  In that environment, I'm not too bad.   But on a day to day basis, more times than not, (the self-perceived) socially awkward me makes her appearance.  

When I go out, I put my blinders on.  I do a lot of things on my own, whether it's grocery shopping, running errands, or going to events in and around Los Angeles.  It's me and the thoughts in my head.  I'm surprised (and a little freaked out) when someone talks to me (other than say, a clerk).  I was at Sprouts the other night to pick up a few things, including some apricots.  I had visions of apricot jam in my head after finishing up a jar a couple of weeks ago.  I headed over to the large bin in the center of the produce department, bag in hand, when I see an older woman, maybe in her late 60's, slowly approaching the same bin.  I thought about holding back until she was finished, but I was in one of those moods where I just wanted to get what I needed and head back home.  It was a big enough space to share, so I grabbed a bag, staked a spot to the right of her, and went apricot hunting.  She turned to me and in a kind, heavily accented voice said, 'Look for this colour, they're better,' as she's holding a fruit with that beautiful deep blush on one side.  I smiled and nodded.  (The uncomfortable feeling beginning, my mind screaming, 'She's talking to you!')  She told me that she was going to make jam because her daughter-in-law liked it so much, she all the jam the woman had made.  I told her I was going to make jam too.  She said, 'What do you use?  I put in lemon juice.'  I said, 'I use orange juice.'  And there it was:  we had bonded, even if only for a few seconds, over kitchen secrets.  

Having picked the fruit I needed, I smiled and went off to finish my shopping.  No more than 3-4 minutes had passed;  I headed to the check-out, swinging back through the produce section, and she was still there picking apricots.  The bag she had was close to bursting with the amount of fruit she had in it.  I could have kept on walking since she hadn't seen me, but I rolled my cart close to hers and said, 'That's going to make a lot of jam.'  She said she needed enough apricots to make 3 batches.  And she smiled at me.  I smiled back and it didn't feel that awkward anymore.

Apricot-Blood Orange Jam
Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen's 'Quick Apricot Jam'
(Makes about 2 cups)

8-10 apricots, quartered and pitted
1/2 cup blood orange juice
3/4 cup turbinado sugar

Combine ingredients into a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat.  Stir frequently to mix everything together.  Cook over medium high heat for about 10 minutes.  The fruit will begin to break down.  I like to mash the fruit further while it's cooking with the back of a fork.  Take the heat down to a simmer and let cook further, about 15-20 minutes.  

Take off heat, mix well and allow to cool.  Transfer to jar or bowl, cover and refrigerate.  Should last at least a week, if not a little longer.  

Note:  Turbinado sugar is my latest fascination.  Feel free to use regular sugar or pure cane sugar, and adjust to your taste.  This probably turned out more like the consistency of a very chunky, more on the syrupy side jam, but I have no complaints.  I can (and do) eat it with a spoon, it's also temporarily replaced my daily morning avocado toast. 

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