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Friday, November 06, 2009

The Elusive Charm of Mason Jars

Mason Jars
Originally uploaded by Patrick Q
As a child of the South, I have a soft spot for mason jars. I grew up surrounded by them, since the ladies on my father's side of the family did a fair amount of canning. (After all, his family did come from the country: Seminole County, in the Southwest corner of Georgia.)

And yes, people really do drink out of mason jars here. In fact, Folks restaurant chain used to serve drinks in them. Of course, it's less common than it used to be, but it can be very handy if you want to be able to seal it up. (Think of it as the environmentally-responsible late nineteenth and early twentieth-century version of the to-go cup and tupperware…) I recently bought a bunch of them for canning.

To me, Mason jars are wonderful to look at. Today's jars look just like those from my childhood, except that the lids and bands are now platinum colored. In our living room, we have a half-gallon Mason jar sitting on a shelf, filled with glass florist marbles. It looks very cool, but in our case they aren't simply decorative: we're gamers, so my husband and I actually use those marbles for D&D and for card or board games.

Mason jars are just so handy! I remember my grandfather keeping miscellaneous fasteners in those jars in his workshop; in the utility room off the garage, my grandmother had a couple of shelves of them, which she would send us to fetch to store leftover soup, or perhaps some sweet tea to send with a guest.

Perhaps it seems old-fashioned to you, but it's not like I'm old. Sure, we have dedicated drink bottles now, and all sorts of plastic storage containers. It's not like we didn't have those when I was a kid, though the variety was certainly smaller.

But think about it: after you finish your 32 ounce cup of Coke from McDonald's, what do you do with the cup? Trash it. What would you do with a Mason jar? Wash it out and reuse it. The only plastic is in the lining of the lid used for sealing; even those lids can be reused for non-food storage. The bands and jars can be reused until the jars chip or the bands begin to rust.

That's part of the appeal of a Mason jar: they remind us of a time when resources weren't taken for granted…and neither were people.