My full name is Jill Rumoshosky Werner, but I go by Jill Werner these days. I don't make anyone say the dreaded R name unless they are related to me or giving me an award. Feel free to call me Jill.
My hometown, which is located 10 miles north of the New York City/Bronx border, is a charming little village filled with American history from the early Dutch settlers to the Revolutionary War. Despite its closeness to New York City, it is quite scenic and has a small-town family atmosphere. In fact, it is a lot like Bella Vista. The topography is hilly and heavily wooded, but instead of lakes, the Hudson River flows past. The climate is surprisingly similar and just a few miles down the road is every amenity that you could ever want or need. The big difference is that Bella Vista is one-tenth the price.
How did that upbringing influence my cooking and canning? Basically, every cuisine in the world was laid out before me in New York City. When we would visit my father's office in Rockefeller Center, we would usually open the phone book to find a nationality and restaurant that we hadn't tried before. At home, I learned to cook sukiyaki, Swedish pancakes, blintzes and Chinese foods. My town had a very large Italian and Jewish population so the bakeries, pizzerias and delis in town were the absolute best. When I was in high school, I worked for the local rabbi's family and had to cook the family dinners, keeping to strict Kosher guidelines. All in all, I had a very eclectic upbringing when it came to food. Adding Northwest Arkansas cuisine on top of that tasty mix was hardly a stretch.
This is not me.
This is my mother, Marguerite.
I am her clone.
I remember my mother canning jam using the paraffin-top method. She'd store the jars lined up in along the cement walls of the basement in our 1890s Victorian house and if I spotted a little bit of jam leaking up to the top of the paraffin, I would lick it off, which probably gave me a great immune system. When I was in my 20s and living in Kansas, I fell in with a scurvy crew of friends who liked to pick their own fruit and make their own jam. My interest in jam making grew from there over the course of many years. Many, many years.
I have an interesting professional background that includes a B.A. in speech pathology and an M.A. in audiology. I worked for a while as a research audiologist at a hearing aid company where I published the first psychoacoustic research on in-the-ear hearing aids (say what?). After moving to Kansas, I was a software technical writer for NCR writing computer reference manuals (got laid off) and then worked for IBM as a systems engineer during the 1980s, In 1990, I left IBM and became an artist. My artwork was shown in over 20 museums, but I retired my art career when I moved to Bella Vista. My website is still online, if you want to see it.
I started volunteering at the Bella Vista Historical Museum in 2016 and began to sell my excess jams there as a way to raise funds. I'm still on the museum board, but no longer selling my jams there. My interest in the native fruits and edible wildflowers of Northwest Arkansas has now become something of an obsession. Stay tuned for more!