Last week I was telling my mom how I had been craving pickled peaches like my Granny made. My mom was telling me how they would go out and pick small peaches, blanch them and slip the skins, stick a clove into each peach, then pack them in the jars with the pickling syrup and a cinnamon stick. I can see a quart Mason jar full of those peaches—they look as beautiful as they taste. Since I have not had any luck finding pickled peaches in the grocery store in years, I suppose I will have to try to make some. That is too good a tradition to let it pass along with my Granny!
Today my husband and I were discussing another tradition that appears to be fading. Although it is not as beautiful and sweet as pickled peaches, I hate to see the passing of the catfish heads hung on the fence. San Saba should be proud to have one of the most extensive displays of fish heads that I have seen anywhere in recent years—the fence beside the Six Pack on Highway 16. When I first moved to Texas 25 years ago, such large displays of fish heads were fairly common. I had never seen such a thing and asked around about what it meant. I was told it was like having a fishing trophy case along your front gate.
There are practical reasons why pickled peaches and fish heads are disappearing. Peaches were pickled to preserve a treat that was only in season and available for a very short period of time in the summer. My mom was one of six children and my grandfather (I kid you not) was a sharecropper cotton farmer in the deep South. Even if there had been a grocery store that offered fresh peaches from California, her family could not have afforded to buy them. And with eight people to feed they were not about to let fruit fall to the ground and rot. Now most of us can afford to buy fresh fruit from the store, but the jobs we have that allow us to do that make us too short on time to create something like a jar of pickled peaches.
Nowadays, fishing is considered recreational, but not all that long ago, it was something people did primarily to provide meat for their families. There was no Friday night all-you-can-eat catfish special at the restaurant in town, and if there were, only the rich would be able to afford it. If you wanted fish, someone had to go catch it out of the river. If you happened to catch a really big fish or a whole bunch of big fish, you wanted everyone to know and be impressed with your skills, so you hung the fish heads on your fence where everyone who passed could see them.
What does this have to do with art? It has everything to do with creative living! Personally, I do not want to see everything become one flat, homogenized American monoculture. It is depressing enough that you can visit any suburban area in the country and feel as though you never left home because you will find the same set of chain stores and restaurants everywhere you go. All of these things that we no longer need to do or have time to do are the very things that make Texans different from Californians who are different from Vermonters. Those differences add to our identities and fuel our creativity. Going through the process of picking peaches and pickling them or catching and cleaning a fish for our supper adds much more texture and color to your life than getting out the can opener to open a can of mechanically processed peaches or throwing the fish sticks in the microwave. Vive la difference! SpringCreekArtsGuild@gmail.com