It’s 4:30 am and I awake to the smell of apples cooking. I stretch and move Sam, our dog, off my feet so I can get up to stir the apples. I don’t think I imagined at the age of 13 or 14 that I would sleep all night on my couch and stir apples cooking in a roaster every two hours so my family could have Grandma’s apple butter for the holidays, but here I am, loving every minute of it.
As I add the cinnamon flavor, the aroma fills my kitchen and I can almost see my mom and grandma
sitting at my kitchen table, enjoying a cup of coffee and great conversation. Watching them together, it
was always obvious the love they shared for one another.
My Grandma’s apple butter was a staple at our house growing up and to be honest, I’ve never tasted store bought apple butter. I sometimes see it in the store and think maybe I should buy it. But I pass it up
knowing it won’t be as good. As is often the case, I took for granted that it would just be there, available anytime I wanted some. I also took for granted the work that went into those reddish-brown jars of caramelized apples. Although I had witnessed the process, it wasn’t until Grandma shared her recipe with me and I made it, that I realized, making apple butter is a labor of love.
Cooking with Love
Most of our family’s meals were raised in our gardens, harvested in the fall and canned or frozen to enjoy throughout the year. We spent many hours picking and cleaning green beans, shucking corn or enjoying fresh strawberries while growing up, always with mom and grandma by our side showing us how it was done.
I retrieved fresh eggs from Grandma’s chicken coop and watched my Grandfather collect honey from his
hives many times when I was younger. Although they told us often they loved us, their actions surrounded us and we never doubted their love.
Spending time with my grandparents happened weekly and almost always involved food. Whether it was Sunday dinners, Thanksgiving or Christmas, the air was filled with mouth-watering aromas from the kitchen, the deep baritone laughter of my grandfather and us impatiently waiting for the blessing over the meal to be done.
Passing it along
It’s been 30 years since my mom passed and 22 for my grandmother, so for me canning apple butter is so much more than simply filling jars. It’s sharing a part of my heritage with our children, our family and
friends. It’s remembering that I was completely loved as a daughter of Gatha and Doug and granddaughter of Sarah and Roland. It has taught me that sometimes loving is hard and time-consuming, but it’s worth it.
One of the ways I love my children and others is through my cooking just like Grandma. When my son
comes home from college or my daughter has had a bad day, my first thought is what can I cook for them
to make them feel better. When I hear someone is sick or struggling with life, I wonder what they would
like for dinner.
Loving someone takes action, whether it’s making them a meal, sending them a card or just spending time with them making apple butter. And the return is just as sweet. Watching my children as they sit down to a favorite meal that I prepared, is a great joy to me. It might be a simple act of love, but it is one I pass along to them and I hope someday they will pass along as well.
After graduating from Plymouth High School, Marilyn John attended North Central State College earning an Associate’s Degree in Business Management. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Marketing and a Masters of Business Administration from Ashland University. While working on her MBA, she worked as a Commercial Lines Underwriter at the Shelby Insurance Company, later becoming the Executive Director of the Shelby Senior Center. In 2009, Marilyn was elected Mayor of the City of Shelby serving until her election as a Richland County Commissioner in 2015. As an elected official, her main goals have been job creation through economic development, finding flood solutions for flood prone areas of the county, and working with junior high students to develop strong leadership skills through a program she founded, LeaderRichland. Marilyn and her husband Kevin have two children and attend Crossroads Community Church.