failure, lemons, oranges
comments 21

haul pass

marmalade: must we? | new post on a raisin + a porpoise

In reversals of fortune of any scale, there’s a tension for me between giving myself a break because I’m going through something difficult and doubling down because the work is unfinished. And as long as we’re on this side of the grass, the work is unfinished: the work of grief, or recovery, or redress, or of just attending to life in general.  Whatever work there is, it certainly gets an assist from rest and recharge. But the personal ‘by’ is tricky tool to employ well. There’s a big risk of letting the self miss important opportunities.

There’s no shortage of fresh horrors to compound the political news that seemed to reach its apex on November 9th, but re-grouping from the wallop of the election results is not something we can really afford, as citizens, to drag out. Because that wasn’t the apex. It was the opening bell of the next round. Good people are out there doing the work of resistance, and they need help.

[If you have not already done this, please click here for simple instructions on how to add your representatives’ contact info to your address book, a genius move that means you can pipe up easily any time you feel the urge to be represented by your government. Calls rank way ahead of electronic petitions (and face-to-face contact way head of calls), so by all means keep signing petitions, but build up the muscles in that dialing finger, too.]

My righteous rage gets fueled by reminding myself of the gulf between me and a red voter. That’s useful to the extent that it keeps me fighting, direct-dialing my senators’ offices and signing petitions and so forth. But its utility is limited by the fact that admiring the depth and breadth of the gulf–Isn’t it W I D E?  Is it not so very very deeeeep? look at all those nutjobs over there on the other side, in their stupid hats!–is what got us here.

We need to cross it. We need to move off of ‘HOW can you POSSIBLY think THAT?’ (as tempting and itch-scratching as it appears to be) to a genuinely curious ‘how did you come to think that?’ We need to cultivate curiosity and get more comfortable with discomfort—the kind that comes from acknowledging we don’t know something and the kind that comes from being in unfamiliar settings and the kind that comes from trying new things we are sure in advance that we won’t like.

A few years ago I read Anne Fadiman’s gorgeously-written and compelling book, The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down, which to me grabs the very nut we seek here: how do we cultivate understanding and cooperation across a perceived divide? I just bought twelve used copies of the book. I’m seeding the landscape with them. Message me if you’d like one.

marmalade: must we? | new post on a raisin + a porpoise

In this way, we come quite naturally to the topic of food. As if she heard me thinking that I was going to commit to kicking myself out of my own wheelhouse and being a student in 2017, right around peak New Year’s Resolution time my friend Marisa launched her Mastery Challenge, inviting readers to pursue a new food preservation skill each month. I trotted right over to Food In Jars HQ and signed myself up, because in my twisted little head, these acts of resistance and changes on a grand scale have to at least thread through (even if they don’t dominate) every aspect of our lives. I can’t Become A Student Of That Which Lies Beyond The Known and still keep everything in my little bubble world just so. The toast in the morning could be doing its part to remind me.

She heard me a little too well, it seems, because then she announced Challenge One.


I loathe, detest and despise it. I resist, refuse and revile it. I am a big lemon lover, a devotee of citrus generally, and passionately fond of bitter things like broccoli rabe and endive and so forth. But marmalade: no.

marmalade: must we? | new post on a raisin + a porpoise

I had that feeling one gets when one has signed up willingly to do something that one knows will test one–even in the hopes that it will test one–and then one finds oneself tested and one does not like it.  Not one little bit.

Marisa helpfully provided lots of information on how to make good marmalade. And she did remind us that we could use free license to interpret each challenge in such as way as to make something our households would enjoy.

The thing is that the Venn diagram of “marmalade” and “something my household would enjoy” does not exist. When I googled up “marmalade for people who hate marmalade,” I arrived at this lovely place, and the thing I made was in fact pretty delicious (remember I told you that I heart citrus?).

marmalade: must we? | new post on a raisin + a porpoise

Which is how we know it also wasn’t marmalade. (Remember I told you that I hate marmalade?)

YOU HAVE TO DO THIS THING, I told myself sternly.

I remembered that a friend once gave me a jar of yuzu marmalade, which many Asian cultures prize as a health aid in winter; a spoonful of it dissolved in hot water certainly makes a person happy, whatever contribution that or its nutrients have for health. Maybe I can reproduce that, I said encouragingly to myself, despite the fact that I lack any kind of reasonable access to an actual yuzu.

Right on cue, my mother’s Meyer lemon tree obligingly produced some tiny lemons and our local market had a lovely variegated pink lemon on offer, which I highly recommend you try if you come across one, as well as some very lusty looking kumquats. I whanged them all up together. I made marmalade.

I really, really wish I could say that I liked it.

marmalade: must we? | new post on a raisin + a porpoise

I did not.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a yuzu. I don’t think it’s because I made it wrong. I was inclined to think it was because I went about it wrong, because obviously if I was doing this whole thing correctly I would have blasted through my wall of resistance and become a marmaladist.

OH, WAIT. I was going about it wrong.

A Green Eggs + Ham result is not guaranteed from these exercises of adventure. It’s not just new things to like, 2017—it’s the art of graceful (yet engaged) disagreement. That’s what I’m aiming for. (If you’re going to click on any of the links in this excessively linked post, please click on that one.)

marmalade: must we? | new post on a raisin + a porpoise

“You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it.” It sure beats 2016’s mantra, which devolved for me to a muttered “I hate everything’ as that year made its final, greedy grabs.

Message me if you’d like a jar of marmalade. It’s homemade!


  1. You brought a jar to California, I hope? Because you know I love marmalade? I love this cheering new motto and will try to adopt it my own self.

  2. janet says

    You may of course have one of the Anne Fadimans. Sorry about the rocks and grass. And I can definitely save you some marmalade for when it’s over.

  3. Erik Bruun says

    Your writing is always such a joy. I am hoping that between your thoughts and advice, we will all get out of the jam we are in.

    I know, not the smoothest pun for marmalade. 🙂

    • janet says

      That’s a compliment that means quite a lot! Puts me in a very forgiving mood about the pun.

  4. Tania Hansen says

    Dear Blue Hatter:

    I can clearly see how much this cycle has made you crazy! Frankly as a red hatter or maybe more of a puce hatter (a liberal red hatter) it’s made me nuts too. So here is where we cross the divide: love. It is how we choose to love or what our definitions of love are I suppose. Yes, Janet, Red hatters do have capacity to love. Ultimately love is how we smooth all rough landscapes slowly and by small and simple acts of kindness and charity. But let me be perfectly clear: I have no love for the leader in chief chosen by the hatters at large. Blinded by sparkly expensive TV hats I think. Let’s not even go where the idiotic babbling exists!

    As for marmalade, it is definitely grows on you. Try it with a shmear of cream cheese on toast. I find bad marmalades which are too bitter often have too much pith in them. Leave that behind!

    I feel endurance might be the name of the game rather than a pass, but hey, I’ll give it to you anyway.
    See you later with my nose to the grindstone. You will recognize me with my puce hat on!

    • janet says

      Your hat’s a very nice color; thanks for pointing it out to me. And I heartily agree that everyone has the capacity to love, and that it is the answer! In the face of anything, even doubt that it could possibly be the answer. Thank you for writing.

      Have you seen this? I’m inspired by people who are very committed to the answer and this seems to qualify:

      • Tania Hansen says

        Thanks Janet! Having grown up in Ohio, MLK was an important part of my moralistic development. Living in Idaho, the colors are different but the issues the same unfortunately. I will read the book you suggested. Don’t send me one, save the postage for someone else.

        What a great day to remember to look for those who need love and support in their lives and give them all the extra you have. I’m glad you raged today!

  5. Oh my. Well, whichever is the marmalade you delivered here, that I have dutifully spooned in to hot steaming cups of tea, if it is that marmalade you don’t like, then fine, just pass it over here. Delicious. We will find a way to use it. In terms of your links, thank you. That phone app has proved useful over the past weeks. And really, this divide we wish did not exist….we can build ladders down there, made of jam and books, and kindness. Then the listening can begin. I was hugely instructed by a passage early in Gloria Steinem’s memoir, which really helped me in Armenia. It is this:

    “If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them.
    If you hope people will change how they live, you have to know how they live.
    If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye to eye.”

    Gloria Steinem on what the Ghandians taught her during her early years of on the road organizing in India in the 1950’s

    It is helpful to me, to press more in to listening while sipping marmalade dosed tea. Great post. xoS

    • janet says

      Thank you for that Gloria bit. That’s worth tattooing somewhere prominent. And ALL marmalade is marmalade I don’t like, but I’d share it with you regardless!

  6. Congratulations on making the marmalade! Impressive. Excellent advice (to at least try it…AND to add our representatives’ contact info to our address books). Also, thank you for the recommendation; I will check out Anne Fadiman’s book!

  7. Peter says

    WOW, have you made me feel better! I thought I was the only one who gagged at even the idea of marmalade, a response for which I feel I have good reason. Seems that, at a young age, my uncle who was babysitting for me and my brother, decided to make us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (i.e. legitimate kid food in those days) and couldn’t find any jelly. So, you can guess the rest…. I ate it just to be polite (and just to be clear, it was GINGER marmalade, which is like finding out that Trump’s best friend’s name is Vladimir). That was the last time I tried it, and now I am an adult so I don’t have to eat anything that I don’t want and I can have cookies for breakfast

    • janet says

      Giving PB & marmalade to a defenseless child seems like an actionable offense to me, though others have suggested it could have been lack of childhood exposure that warped me. Does this prove them wrong?

      Enjoy your morning cookies!

    • janet says

      Wisely observed! And clearly I am not the person for an upcoming Marmalade Promotion campaigns. But I am glad you pushed me to learn deep lessons from it and I am clearly surrounded by people who are glad I have extra marmalade.

    • janet says

      Not even a little bit! But if the mailman gets out your way, we can solve this!

      • sillygirl says

        You must really hate marmalade! Should I send you my address privately?

  8. Some really smart people read your blog and I love your responses. For the record, I eat peanut butter and marmalade every morn’ for breakfast. I think of it as a step up from pb&j…..

    • janet says

      For the record, I knew that! Not sure I share the “step up” belief, but I do respect it.

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