When I was growing up, Saturday morning and PBS went together like bacon and eggs. Sometimes literally, as many of the shows we watched were cooking shows or cooking segments of other shows. Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet (“The Froog”) and Marian Morash on the Victory Garden were two I remember in particular. I was aware of Julia Child but I don’t remember seeing her regularly on TV.

We also watched Martin Yan in Yan Can Cook and Justin Wilson’s Louisiana Chef show (I forget if that was the exact title). I remember being aware that these shows were different.  Julia taught you French cooking technique. Marian mostly gave recipes for whatever was in season at the moment. Jeff encouraged you to broaden horizons and tastes. Martin and Justin, however, were primarily entertainers. They were filmed with live studio audiences, who laughed at the jokes and gasped at the astounding knife technique. The delivery was, if anything, more important than the food. And while Martin’s slogan may have been, “If Yan can cook, so can you!” but even at the age of 8, I remember watching him chop flawless matchstick carrots faster than a Cuisinart and thought, “Really? Because none of us watching can do that.

I think cooking shows have followed this celebrity trend more and more. It’s not about food, it’s not about teaching, and it’s not about empowering people to do for themselves.

More often than not, it’s about selling stuff. Chefs become brands almost instantly. Put “Rachel Ray” into Amazon, and you 278 results. About 25 of those are her cookbooks; about 120 are cookware. (There are also videos and books about her.) Chefs even have their own lines of frozen food – a clear sign that we are encouraged to eat food prepared by professionals and we’re not really expected to try this at home.

Yes. We Can.I think this professionalization of cooking does us all a disservice. At some level, we take in that if our food doesn’t look like theirs, it’s not good enough and we therefore shouldn’t even try.

Preserving Traditions isn’t like that. In fact, it’s quite intentionally the opposite. With only a few exceptions, the people teaching our classes are your neighbors, not celebrities. (Sylvia Nolasco-Rivers was our big exception this year – everyone in town knows her business Pilar’s Tamales) The point of the workshops is to give you actual hands-on experience so you can, in fact, do that kind of food preparation in your own kitchen. That’s why our slogan is “Yes. We Can.”

Now, you may decide that you don’t want to make all your own pickles, can tomatoes, or make pie crust from scratch with lard…but at least you’re able to make an informed decision instead of just assuming it’s an impossible task.


Is this thing on?

Is anyone still reading this blog? I hope so! Now that the harvest season is winding down, I’ll be writing a bit more here: wrap-ups from our multitudinous summer events and also some thoughts on Preserving Traditions, lessons learned, and thoughts for directions as the group moves forward. Your thoughts are very much appreciated!

Look for posts in the coming days…


Hi, folks! Nice to have you here at the site. Canning is definitely making a comeback, as you can tell by all the buzz around Ann Arbor and across the US. Glad you’re a part of it!

cannersYou might be especially interested in the following:

  • Our calendar of events – through Google Calendar, so you can subscribe and have it display next to your own Google Calendar
  • Our “store” on Cafe Press, where you can buy “Yes. We Can.” logo items. You can also get aprons with the logo at Downtown Home and Garden – canning equipment headquarters of Ann Arbor

Yes. We Can.grange logo

It’s official! Preserving Traditions is now an official activity of the Pittsfield Union Grange!

This is a really exciting development: the Grange is one of the oldest rural organizations in the US, with a long history of creating community and sharing resources in rural areas, especially in the eastern half of the US.

As part of the Grange, Preserving Traditions gets financial support and a solid administrative structure. Money raised by PT will defray costs of building maintenance, utilities, and equipment that will be used in our activities and by anyone else using the Grange hall’s kitchen. In return, the Grange gets an influx of people interested in its programs, and hopefully new active members, as well.

Benefits for Members

If you are interested in Preserving Traditions events, I strongly encourage you to become a member of the Grange. Membership is $40/yr for individuals or $70/yr for families. All people over the age of 14 are considered full voting members.

  • Free admission to Preserving Traditions events (that alone will pay for your annual dues!).
  • Earlybird RSVPs for Preserving Traditions events. Grange members will be able to sign up for events a few days before the general public…especially handy since every event so far has filled to capacity!
  • Ability to reserve the Grange kitchen for your own canning, preserving, or large cooking projects for a nominal fee
  • Input on Preserving Traditions equipment procurement. Should we buy a grain mill or a cabbage shredder? Should we have a fundraiser for a new stove? Can we find someone to donate a pressure canner? Grange members will have a place at the table in these discussions.
  • A voice in the future of the Pittsfield Grange, as well as the State and National Granges.
  • Discounts on admission to other Grange events, like dances
  • Discounts on hotels, car rentals, cell phone service, and more (see the National Grange’s pages on Member Benefits)

You can download a membership form and become a member before our next meeting!

About the Grange

The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry is a national organization of farmers and rural citizens. The Grange was instrumental in breaking up railroad monopolies in the 19th century and securing rural mail delivery, among other power-of-the-people actions. It’s also a social organization, serving as a community center for rural folks, sponsoring dances, potlucks, and the like.

The Pittsfield Union Grange is a local (“subordinate”) Grange that’s been active since 1867. Unlike many Granges, our local Grange is quite active and our Grange Hall is is very good shape, due in large part to the strong communities of dancers who rent the hall for dances.

Preserving Traditions is a group of SE Michigan folks who love to cook, eat, and preserve good food. We get together about once a month to share kitchen techniques like canning, pickling, and baking. As the group grows, we’ll be doing other things related to community food – perhaps buying in bulk from local farmers (“cowpooling”), helping members with heavy garden work, and the like. Please see the “About” and “Events” pages for more information.