There’s no sugar to be had in Cambridge or Somerville.
Yesterday, a bunch of the strawberries at my community garden plot came up ripe all at once so I picked and picked and picked. After baking all afternoon in the hot sun, I was in no mood to make jam or even to make dinner so we went out to Chipotle’s and got that rude shock from the National Guard.
This morning, I called a handful of women who are also into canning and also had strawberries — and rhubarb — ripe. We all had enough jars after last summer’s canning madness, but we needed extra sugar and lemons and some pectin. I figured lemons would be hard to come by; it’s a bad time of year for lemons when gas prices and civil unrest are at normal levels.
We met up at Starbucks in Davis and mostly ordered black tea or coffee because the milk-based drinks are so pricey. Then we started down the street to Star to buy sugar.
A female National Guard soldier — slim, petite, black — sauntered up to us and explained, very politely but firmly, that groups of more than three people were not allowed to gather on the street today and that we needed to break it up.
I took a moment to assess my group: slightly overweight 35-year-old mom in sandals and big straw hat, slim 32-year-old mom with flowered dress and similarly floppy straw hat, very tall and very overweight mom with her son’s Elmo sunglasses (she had grabbed the wrong pair that morning and it was really bright!), and finally, slim tan athletic looking twenty-something wearing Birkenstocks. All of us carrying string grocery bags, with streaks of white sunblock still glistening on our bare arms.
Oh yeah, we bad.
Now, i get that they have to enforce the law equally or else it’s a bad law. But what if my friend with the Elmo sunglasses had been out with her husband and her three kids? Or her four sisters? That’s simply ridiculous.
The Guardswoman was very polite and after some discussion we determined that we could simply walk in two pairs ten feet apart. Wow. Clearly the measure improved the safety of everyone in the city.
That wasn’t the scariest part of the day, though.
No, the scariest part of the day was arriving at Star and finding no sugar. I have a diabetic uncle and they did have some of the no-sugar pectin, which can be hard to find, so I bought the whole case. Thank God I did. Because we then walked (two-by-two again) to Pemberton Farms. No sugar. We climbed into Juliet’s car and drove to Market Basket. No sugar. The other Shaw’s up the road: no sugar.
To save gas we all broke out our cell phones and started calling around. The Store 24: no sugar. Costco: no sugar. Foodmaster: no sugar. The Harvest Coop: no sugar. Tader Joe’s on Mass. Ave.: no sugar.
Finally we found sugar at the Trader Joe’s in Burlington. About 15 miles away. That’s a lot of gas but we decided we could manage it.
But I had the sense to pull the car over and ask the nice National Guard (who, again politely, pointed out that the four of us in one car, constituted a violation of the curfew laws) if there were check points leaving the city? He said yes, there were, and the wait was only about 90 minutes to get out.
The four of us decided that we could use the no-sugar pectin for strawberry jam. No one wanted to drive that far and spend that much money on gas just idling.
The sun is about to go down. I’ve got five dozen jars of jam put up — mostly half-pint but a few 4-oz. for gifts. I just finished cleaning up the kitchen and April is tucked into bed. A large truck that Paul calls a “deuce” is creeping down the street very slowly, announcing through a bullhorn that everyone needs to be off the streets by 8:30.
Now I’m going to get to work on another heavy wool quilt. It seems absurd, with the temperatures in the high 80 degrees, but after last winter, I suspect we’re going to need lots of heavy wool quilts come December. In New England, you have to start thinking about winter in the spring.