Porch Pickles is a community care project that cheers and celebrates those around us through gifts of homemade pickles and preserves. Throughout the pandemic, my two young sons and I made batches of pickles and preserves from our garden harvests in NE Portland. We’d fall asleep to the popping of lids as they sealed, and the next day we’d deliver jars of pickles to the porches of our elderly neighbors, frontline workers, and BIPOC families juggling work and online school while flattening the curve from home. We also set out gifts of jars on our porch for mail carriers, delivery people, and friends who had lost employment during the pandemic.
While cutting pickling cucumbers into spears or peeling garlic or measuring out ingredients for the brine, my young sons and I would talk about George Floyd, the climate crisis, and the interconnectedness of the world at large. In this way, our canning projects were in conversation with what was happening around us. Inspired by social justice activists, for example, we made protest pesto. When news of AAPI hate had us in tears, we made kimchee and sizzling xanh sauce to share. Then we loaded jars upon jars onto our bikes, donned our masks, and delivered these gifts to teachers and librarians, neighbors grieving the lost of loved ones, free fridges feeding the community, and always we had jars with hand-written notes for elders in isolation.
We soon discovered that the way gifting works is that the more you give, the more you are attuned to gifts everywhere. In the gift shift way, we became glad recipients of flats of Italian plums on our porch, bags of fragrant quince, or fresh-baked blueberry muffins and hand-sewn masks for the boys. We also were invited to harvest and forage from neighborhood gardens and fruit trees to make more pickles and preserves for the community. In this way, we witnessed the growing web of a community and culture of care through what I called our Porch Pickles gift shift.
Funded by Portland, OR (November 2021)