I'm great at feeding people, but I've never mastered portion control. I joke that it's inherited, that I always make too much because written in my genome is the fear that there won't be enough to go around.

That's never happened, I've always had the luxury of a full shopping cart.

Or rather, I did until mid-March, when I encountered empty supermarket shelves, just days after the  World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic.

The sight of those picked-over produce displays flooded me with visions of my nanny, who always made too much food, and who counted wealth in jars of pickled vegetables and preserved fruit., an ever-renewing stockpile that meant everything might go to hell, but at least we could eat.

Her name was Irene, and all those jokes about grandmothers who want you to eat, eat and eat, were written about her.

In the hospital in the last month of her life, I sat holding her hand while, in a rasp, she invited the young doctor who'd just inserted chest tube to dinner.

He was polite, laughing off the loopy, half anesthetized old women with a comment about his busy resident's schedule, and she grabbed his wrist. I spoke for her, explaining that it was a more command than invitation really : She'd remember, and if he didn't come, she'd die bit offended.

AS most grandchildren do, I tended to see my grandmother as a relic of another time. We joked about her penny pinching, her reuse of plastic storage bags -

Her reluctance to throw away dinner scraps that could just as soon be made into soup.

In her obituary I wrote that she was ''very territorial over her Tupperware.'' But she knew what it meant to be without, and I think she just wanted to be prepared.

She's had lived through war years and lean times, a child of the Depression raised in Camden, N.J. by Italian immigrant parents with 10 mouths to feed.

Irene once told me that mussels reminded her of adolescence, when they were hauled, bushel and bushel, from the Delaware River, plentiful and cheap enough to feed her swarm of siblings.

She and her family worked on farms then, two dozen hands making a living picking whatever was in season and filling their bellies with the surplus.

For as long as she lived she was a grower, with a greenhouse full of flowers to sell and a garden of good things to eat.

Tomato plants always seemed eager to please her, straining with juicy, vermillion fruit. I swore the mint followed her around, springing up wherever she stood.

Every summer, Irene would summon my cousins and me to her kitchen in New Jersey to help her put up bushels of sweet, white South Jersey corn and pint after pint blackberries.

We canned peaches and peppers and jelly, pickled cucumbers and eggplants, and ladled tomato sauce into jars until our wrists seized up.

We'd cart everything into the cellar, where the long chest freezer hummed, and fill the floor-ceiling shelves with a colorful bounty of preserves that promised no one would ever leave the table hungry.

The honor and serving of this beautiful post, continues. The World Students Society thanks author, journalist Kate Morgan.


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