Sunday, 5 March 2017

Village Tales: Pam Turner’s Radical Jam

by Nina Watson


It was a typical Sunday Morning in Maplebottom, and soft sunlight was streaming through the kitchen windows of one Pamela Turner. With ‘The Archer’s’ playing softly in the background, Pam vigorously scribbled out yet another useless jam recipe and let out a huff of frustration. How could she have been so foolish to think that boring old Damson and Rosehip preserve would be enough to win this year’s annual “Jam Jamboree”? Apricot and Cinnamon, Peach and Pineapple and Raspberry and Thyme had all failed to reach Pam’s already impossible standards, and she had been working on those combinations for months. With the Jamboree only four days away Pam knew she had to really push the boat out with her jam if she was ever to beat Susan Hornslade. Bah that Susan! Pam had always thought she was a smug busybody, and she hated it when Susan sewed her many 1st place jam ribbons onto her blanket at quilting club right in front of Pam’s face. Wiping her sticky hands down the front of her apron in defeat, Pam turned away from the carnage at the kitchen counter and in an effort to distract herself, began to get together the ingredients for that evening’s supper.  A Thai green curry she thought to herself, and then suddenly as if she had been struck by the hand of God, she knew. She knew how to dazzle the jamboree judges, wipe that silly smirk off of Susan’s face and to create the ultimate taste extravaganza that no one in Maplebottom would ever recover from. With a renewed sense of self, Pam hurried to Tesco’s in search of the biggest chili she could find…

***

“Oh Susan, have you heard? Heard about Pam Turner?”
“Don’t get me started Madge because my poor heart can’t take it. A curried chicken preserve, really? What next, one of those gluten free cakes?” Susan Hornslade looked disapprovingly over her quilt at Madge Greene. Susan, a woman who considered herself the fountain of what was what and what was not in Maplebottom, was very perplexed at such a… daring choice of ingredients for a jam. Being the winner of the Jam Jamboree five years in a row Susan knew what it took to cook an incomparable jam, and she just wasn’t confident that Pam had that God-given knowledge. “It’s just such a risk with only two days until the Jamboree! I always thought that Pam was slightly… different. Lord Madge, do you remember when she entered ‘nut butter’ into the Big Butter Bash? How embarrassing that was for her.” Happily carrying on with sewing a new patch onto her quilt, Susan decided she would bake Pam a consolation cake, to comfort her after her inevitable defeat on Friday.


***


It was 10:30 pm on Thursday night (the night before the Jamboree), and Pam was contemplating her decisions. Had she gone out on too far a limb? Was Maplebottom ready for this new era of jam-making? And finally, was ten chili’s per jar really too much? Her husband Andrew had assured her that it wasn’t, but the shade of magenta he had turned after one spoonful of preserve and the beads of sweat rolling down his forehead had created huge ripples of self-doubt. But there was nothing to be done now, at this hour, and Pam knew in her heart of hearts that this year would be hers for the taking. Finally drifting off with images of a bouquet of Peonies, a blue first place rosette and Susan Hornslade weeping silently in the corner, Pam was lulled to a sound sleep with a tiny little smile on her face. 

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