My grandmother, Connie (Kanako) Komori, is a nisei Japanese Canadian. When I come home to Kamloops for the summer, Connie always asks me how many dozens of jars of canning I can take with me when I go back to school. We pack up boxes of jars after sweating over the canner in the carport together, rushing to preserve the abundance of her garden from fruit flies and heat waves. She stuffs jam and canned salmon and denbatsuke, the pickles that incarcerees made at the New Denver incarceration camp, into every corner of my car. Sometimes we go back and forth on where the pickle’s name comes from: some say New Denver, others Denver, Colorado. In any case, denbatsuke is a uniquely nikkei dish, prepared in the makeshift camp kitchens—and now, carports—of Japanese Canadians and Americans for more than 80 years.
Connie always gives me and her other family members the Kerr brand canning jars, the ones they don’t make anymore, her favorites. I think she does this because she insists that they be washed and returned the next year; that they make their way home again. When I open a jar of denbatsuke in my home in California, the briny smell calls up the rich soil in Kamloops that the daikon were grown in and Connie’s strong, lined hands as they packed them into the jar.