After a brisk opening day at The Magic Canning Jar Diner, I barely felt my tired feet and achy back when I turned the sign on the door to Closed. A reporter from the local paper remained in a booth at the back waiting for an interview. I poured us both a cup of coffee and let out a long sigh as I sat down.
“Are you sure you want to do this now? I can come back later in the week,” the reporter said.
Let’s do this now. I don’t think business is going to slow down anytime soon, at least I hope not.
The reporter began the interview by turning on her recorder and asked permission to tape our conversation.
“Start with how you came up with the name of the restaurant and the unusual menu.”
I give my grandmother credit for the name and the menu. Friday was always Nana Day. She would pick me up from school for an afternoon of no rules and special treats ending in a sleep over.
Mom would say watching the two of us giggle, heads together, “I can’t tell the adult from the child.”
Nana lined the top shelf in her pantry with canning jars filled with everything from homemade jam to pickled eggs. All the jars were numbered and Nana moved the numbers around every few weeks.
I had two favorite jars. Nana kept one filled with chocolate. She liked to buy candy on sale so you might find Easter candy in October and Halloween candy in April. The wrapper didn’t matter; the treat inside delighted no matter the season.
My other favorite jar we filled with activities to do together. We each wrote ideas on slips of paper and put them in the jar. On a cold, rainy Friday in November, I reached into the activity jar and pulled out a slip in Nana’s handwriting.
“Camp-in. Don’t you mean camp-out Nana?”
“No, a Camp-in is perfect for a day like today, follow me,” Nana said with a tilt of her head.
Nana opened the linen closet in the hallway and started pulling down blankets and sheets. We hauled them into the living room to build a fort over the furniture. We filled our fort with pillows, stuffed animals, flashlights, games and my favorite books.
After a couple of hours reading, singing and playing games I asked Nana, “What’s for dinner?”
With a lift her eyebrows and a twinkle in her eyes she asked, “How about a canning jar mystery meal?”
I’m sure I made my pickle-puss face, “Oh no. Remember what happened last time Nana? We ate those nasty beets, sauerkraut and pickles.”
Nana smiled, “Pick three numbers between one and thirty. I’ll go to the pantry and bring back our feast.”
I crossed my fingers, trying to remember the number on the chocolate jar. “Sixteen, twenty seven and thirty.”
Nana went to the pantry and came back with the jars I selected.
“Pizza sauce, brussel sprouts and banana peppers,” I groaned.
Nana always made the best of things. That night we made pizza bagels and used the brussel sprouts and banana peppers as toppings.
Nana days and the magic canning jars taught me to eat all kinds of food. I learned how to combine foods that don’t seem like they belong together. And that’s how the diner got its name.
Grinning, I added, “If you select three magic numbers I’ll whip up something memorable.”