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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Innes

The 'year of the jars': How glass jars saved my life

I was recovering. Physically, it had manifested as a cold – and a nasty one at that. The kind of cold when you’re practically glued to the bed, alternating between being stuck to the bedding from the heat and the sweat to trying to ‘coorie in’ further to the endless pile of blankets on your bed because you can’t stop shivering. Likely a consequence of my ‘Type A” tendency to control everything – even those things which are beyond my control – for several months with no let up. My body forced me to stop, both physically and mentally, to give me a chance to regroup. And now I was recovering.

It was the holiday season and I had a welcome two-week break from work. I had spent Christmas day as usual with family, with all the joy and relaxation that always brings. On the way home, I had noticed a tickle in my throat, and woke up the next day feeling not quite right. And then I was floored. For days. By the first of January, I was able to leave my bed (if not my house!), able to sit up on the couch and concentrate on something other than my dripping nose or aches and pains. Given I had been so sick and given my belief that this illness was a direct result of working so hard, I wanted to focus my energies on myself. I wanted to remind myself who I was and what I did in my spare time. What things did I like doing? How could I spend more time doing those things and less time working? This is how I found myself on my laptop, googling things I was interested in. Writing. Recipes. Travelling. Yoga. And in this process, I found Pinterest.

Oh joy! Yet another social network platform that I didn’t really understand. But, my goodness, what interesting and inspiring ideas. 100 places I had to see in my 20’s (a bit too late, I know, but had I seen any?!); must visit bars in New Orleans (had I been?!);15 places to visit in Washington state (how many was I aware of?!); how to make teriyaki bowls; how to wake up happy; how to prepare my own hash browns for freezing (will they never sell frozen hash browns on this island?!). Pinterest – the ultimate guide for my life – why had it taken me so long to find you?! Hours disappeared as I found myself gathering all sorts of ideas of things I could do that I would enjoy.

It was during this time, I happened upon what was – to me – the holy grail of efficiency and health: the mason jar salad. Scores of salad (and even soup!) recipes that you can prepare in advance and grab for your lunch as you’re running out the door. Never will I miss a lunch at work again! A half hour at the weekend and – hey presto! – lunch for the week will be awaiting me. Greek mason jar salads, Asian noodle salad jars, burrito bowl mason jar salads, caprese salad in a jar – the varieties seemed endless. The formula was easy – take an empty jar, put dressing in first, hard, solid veg in next, things that would likely go soggy in a dressing for too long at the top. Seal tightly – job done. This I could do. The only thing required was some jars.

Having a new focus, my recovery sped up and a few days later I was ready to brave the outdoors. Off I went to look for jars. Not exactly sure of the size, I came home with 4 jars, three 1-litre mason jars and 1 three-quarters of a litre clip-top jar. I was on my way. My recovery complete, I returned to work, refreshed, revived and determined to look after myself. Lunches became easy – either sandwiches or salads. Colleagues ooohh-ed and aahhh-ed at my mason jar salads (well, those who weren’t rolling their eyes and laughing at me), consistently commenting that they looked really healthy. And I was somewhat smug and definitely happy with the options these jarred salads gave me and my husband (though to be fair, my husband was much less enthralled with these new ‘take-away’ lunches than I was).

It wasn’t long after I found ‘fruit-infused water’ ideas on Pinterest. Another use for my jars! On any given day, one might find a jar with strawberries, basil and water in my fridge. Or a jar with water, lemon, lime and coriander. My husband, prior to my new-found jar obsession, had bought me a seemingly random birthday present of a Jam Jar Drinking Glass with a lid and a straw that seemed to be the new ‘in’ thing at the time. I now had the perfect use for this! Not only could I prepare my lunch at the weekend, the night before work, I could cut up whatever fruit was about, stick it in this mug along with some herbs and grab it in the morning with my mason jar salad. Work food and drink sorted! I had only to fill my mug with water when I arrived at work, leave it to steep for a short time and then sip throughout the day. Refreshing AND healthy and a great way to use up all that fruit before it went bad waiting to be used.

I didn’t really mind that people knew I was coming before I was in their sight. I was happily clinking along with all my jars – jars for water, jars for salads, occasionally a ‘just add boiling water’ jar when soup was for lunch. I was eating more regularly, more healthily and more easily at work. Next came the jarred breakfasts (overnight oats), which, luckily, didn’t have to be transported. (It would start to get a bit too heavy and somewhat dangerous to carry all these jars around!) Then there were the little mason jar salt and pepper shakers (I just couldn’t help myself!).

Who knew that jars would be my saving grace? The year was flying by as it usually does and I remained far more healthy. My diet was reasonable, I had time for doing things outside of work and things just felt more balanced. And as the year was coming to a close, it was now time to share.

My best friend, the one who has always accepted me as I am – warts, jars and all – was having a ‘special’ birthday, one with a ‘0’ at the end. I knew what I wanted to get her for her birthday at the beginning of the year, even though her birthday was in December. I had seen the idea in those early days of my recovery when I was lost in Pinterest: a ‘friendship jar’. All year long, I plugged away at this, writing down inspirational quotes, memories and poems into a special notebook. Now, as her birthday neared, I had to find the perfect container for these messages of love. Funnily enough, the perfect container was actually a ‘food storage jar’, and it couldn't have been better. I took all the quotes, memories, etc., wrote them onto coloured pieces of paper, rolled them into scrolls and threw them in the jar. Filled to the brim with reminders and messages,, my friend could access this all year round so, hopefully, she wouldn’t go a day without remembering how much she is loved.

And so it was that my year full of jars saved my life - and, I like to think, how they helped me share their life-saving properties. May you have the opportunity to fill your glass jars with the goodness that feeds your body and your soul.


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