Preserving a Way of Life

Preserving a Way of Life

From Pennsylvania to Vienna, canning is a constant.


Anna Anderson has been canning her whole life. Fruits from her yard go into preserves that become gifts to family and friends.

Anna Anderson remembers when Maple Avenue was like a country road, lined with beautiful trees, and traffic was half of what is on the roads in Vienna today. There wasn’t much construction going on anywhere, and there were fewer people who spoke no English.

Anderson, a widow now, moved to Vienna with her husband in 1979 to an acre of land off Vale Road. Her yard is dotted with raspberry bushes, fig trees, grapevines, and a Damson plum tree, all of which go into Anderson’s home-made preserves and relishes, gifts for family and friends. A big kettle full of sweet-fragranced berries simmers on top of the stove, and, into rows of sterilized jars, Anderson ladles steaming thickened fruit.

"I’ve been canning my whole life," said Anderson. "We lived in the country, a coal-mining village in Pennsylvania, and we had tomatoes, fruits, corn, peppers … everything. We had farm animals, too."

ANDERSON’S PARENTS came from Croatia, and her husband’s family, from Norway. Hand-loomed rugs crafted by her mother are scattered throughout the house. On walls are examples of Norwegian decorative folk-art painting, swirls of color and design called rosemaling, sent from or brought back from Norway. Her sunroom, built several years ago, looks out on the spacious back yard, shaded with towering oak trees.

"We lived in Arlington and Annandale before settling in Vienna," said Anderson. "We liked the area because it was more like the country in 1979."

When Anderson’s friends call her "old-fashioned," she appreciates the term. "I am," she said.

In her home is an antique "ice box," a treadle sewing machine, a manual clothes wringer, wood trunks, and a wood bucket, made by her father, used when milking cows, none of which she uses, but each piece has a familial connection.

She does, however, use the more-than 50-year-old flour sacks that came from her mother. A heavy durable cotton, they are still useful. "We used to get flour and feed in 100-pound sacks when I lived in the Pennsylvania country."

When her yard fruit is ripe, she collects enough to make "double" batches. The abundant raspberry bushes yield their bounty twice a year, and during the summer and early fall, Anderson is busy in her kitchen preserving summer’s essence.

ANDERSON POINTS to the plum tree, laden with green fruit and almost 30 years old. "The plums will be ripe in a couple of months. The tree is full this year, but I had no plums at all last year. Maybe, it was too dry."

While their parents were alive in Pennsylvania and Norway, the Andersons made regular trips to visit them. Norway was an annual trip, and trips to Pennsylvania were almost weekly. Mementos of family life are everywhere in the Anderson home.

Anderson turned first to the Vienna Community Center when she moved to town to do things and to learn what was going on in town. She joined Welcome Wagon and Vienna Newcomers, and volunteered with women’s groups in the Vienna area for 20 years.

She plays bridge regularly and enjoys eating at Vienna’s many restaurants, voicing preference for the venerable Marco Polo. Preserving nature’s bounty is something that is part of her life, a constant.

"Our neighborhood is pretty much the same as it was when we moved in, but not Vienna. A lot of construction and traffic now. There are more restaurants, though."