I made jam yesterday.
The whole process was sort of magical, in a very childlike way. We went blackberry picking on Sunday, and managed to gather 800g of ripe fruit from a short stretch of the Waterworks River in Stratford.
Wondering down one of East London's least-loved waterways to find a vast quantity of fruit feels like a bizarre violation of the norms of city living, really. I spend so much of my time in deeply controlled areas, privately owned and run, that it's thrilling to be reminded that actually, deep within the most urban reaches of the capital, nature still thrives.
Not only thrives but feeds you.
It reminds me of a story my stepdad told me once, of taking his daughter and her boyfriend out for dinner to a fish restaurant. One of the dishes was a whole fish – mackerel, I think – and as my stepfather filleted it, the boyfriend (a 20-something American man from a well-off background) exclaimed "it's just like in cartoons!". He'd never actually seen the skeleton of a fish, except animated in Tom and Jerry.
It's a sweet story, but I definitely have my own similar blindspots. Objectively, I of course know that blackberry brambles are a hardy plant, they grow on terrible soil, and when they ripen in late summer, they can bear a huge quantity of fruit. But still, when I actually find one in the city, I can't stop that same childlike glee. It's fruit! Like you find in a farm, only it's in Stratford!
(Please do not reply to this email with stories of blackberries picking up toxins from the industrially-contaminated soil in which they grow, I do not want to know.)
Making jam was a similar emotion. Did you know you make jam by just putting blackberries and sugar in a hot pan and waiting? Seems like it should be harder, really. I don't understand why we're all not just drowning in jam.
Sorry, I know many of you are here for tech analysis, but honestly, the thing that I can't get out of my head this week is that I walked out of my house, picked some stuff off bushes, boiled it with some sugar and now I have infinite jam? Seems like an exploit that should be patched out of the next release really. At least introduce some sort of skill-based mini game, maybe a quick-time event to make sure I can't just gather blackberries while AFK.
I actually think this even beats painting tiny Warhammer soldiers for a simple, pleasing feeling of satisfaction. Both bring something sorely lacking in my life – the sense of holding a physical object which I made myself – but unlike Warhammer, there's not a whole community of people online reminding me that while I'm doing good for my level, I'll never be great.
(I know there are in fact huge communities of jam makers but I'm also helped by the fact that jam just looks like jam so I can't really tell that mine is probably sub-par.)
So let me end this short email with some advice for you: leave the house, find something vaguely natural, and make something nice with it. Maybe whittle a branch? Or forage for some wild garlic and make pesto?
It's just good, you know? Wholesome. Maybe my brain is broken by five months of this but I feel it's slowly helping to heal it.