Herb Benham: I got myself into this jam

·4 min read

Sep. 23—Like most people, I've been called many things in my life. Some I could list, others I can't, many I can't remember but all of which fall in the common lot of shortcomings so none would surprise.

However, I have never had my jam-eating credentials called into question. Those are impeccable and shine next to anybody's.

"I want to talk to you about something," Sue said.

That sentence always feels ominous because it contains three menacing words when used together in "want" "talk" and "something." "I," in the leadoff position, is not good either.

Separately, those words are fine. Together, they are the progenitors of unease, uncertainty and un-up-to-snuff.

"You used my jam," she said. "I had to special order it online. I don't mind you eating the jam but my sense is that normally you just want something sweet and it wouldn't matter what kind of jam you have so why not use the big jar of raspberry jam?"

Where do I start? She was hitting me somewhere between my stomach, my belt and my sense of culinary fair play.

First of all, I'm a veteran jam maker (and I use jam and jelly interchangeably). Jam, jelly, honey, anything sweet but, that said, I am not an indiscriminate jam eater. I treat each of them with respect because, although salt is a reason to live, sweet things are a reason to live longer.

"Respect" starts with frequency of use. Sure, Ms. Redcurrant Jelly has jelly on her Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin Food for Life Bread for breakfast. You wouldn't think bread with that sort of biblical pedigree would require a topping but it does.

Anybody can spread jam on their toast in the morning. What sort of initiative does that take?

I've had three-a-day days. Jam in the morning, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch and if there is a loaf of San Luis Sourdough or the dinner features air food, I'll thicken the offering.

Out of respect for my dinner companions, I usually don't plop down a whole jar of jam on the table but rather pour the thick nectar into a small attractive blue dish that is both handy and unobtrusive.

It happens often. I end up breaking people down, the "I'll never eat-jam at dinner" people, because when they see jam swimming happily in the attractive blue dish, their eyes tend to wander, they fall out of conversations and they fixate their gaze on the toasted bread and the jam that adorns it and makes the bread course a cause for celebration.

Might I pass them some? I might and I do because I am a jam sharer and I want them to experience the sheer carnal pleasure of jam on bread under a velvety night sky.

My credentials include making jam — pomegranate, apricot, peach, strawberry, plum — and eating homemade jams from other people, some of whom are blue-ribbon winners at the Kern County Fair.

I like marmalades, tart as they might be. I was into Smucker's before Knott's Berry Farm had the Calico Log Ride. Wilkin & Sons raspberry preserves from Costco is the best jam I've had recently but it's good to mix it up and it's better to have four or five different jams going in the fridge so people can't tell what your next move is.

Bonne Maman Redcurrant Jelly, which I first read as Bonnie Mammy, was the jam in question and subject of the conversation. I'm not being resentful nor am I inclined to hold a grudge but Bonne Maman doesn't spread that well. When I was using it on a chunk of sourdough, the pink beads rolled off the bread and onto a chicken breast.

Our conversation ended but neither party was completely satisfied and won't be until I buy the farm, preferably the one that produces all the delicious jams and jellies in the world of which there are many and Bonne Maman Redcurrant jelly is one. I look forward to seeing how sweet heaven can be.

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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