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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Berries

The raspberry patch at the top of Bay View is terribly overgrown, and getting worse. There used to be makeshift paths among the prickers, but no one seems to care anymore, and one guy without pith helmet, machete, and thigh-high snake boots is unlikely to be the first. I have to be content with just picking a few berries at the edges while the dog strains to get away from the menacing jungle.

But the taste (oh, the perfect taste!) makes me want to add "Civilize raspberry patch" to the list of projects for the summer. They say that smell is quickest to prick memory; well, for me it's the taste of raspberries, and everything else worthwhile besides. When the children were young, we would make an entire ritual of them. From my walks I judged the best day for picking. All put on long pants and bug dope and walked up Bay View carrying the same stained green berry containers from years past. It took our collective forty fingers about an hour to get 3 quarts, enough for one large spoonful each at lunch and then, the highlight of the week, Cindy made a freshly baked pie, luscious, bright-red, that we drooled over until it was cool enough, usually at the end of the first round of Wizard, to eat. Sometimes there was even a piece of two left over for the next day, but it wasn't as dramatic anymore, nor were the pies baked from farm-stand berries when we got too lazy to pick our own.

It's still a shock to me to see raspberries in supermarkets, or on dessert menus, in January. The taste should stay intense, fleeting, full of summer sun and air. The only carbon they consume should be the CO2 you expend as you walk to the top of the road.

We also picked blueberries, the kids and I, in the field on Ash Point that is now a new, as yet unembodied cemetery. Blueberry pie is almost as superb, but the wild blueberry seems a tougher species, not quite so precious or fragile (it's harvested by mechanized rakes, after all), and the cultivated ones are hardly worth mentioning.

Later in the summer, blackberries ripen along the roads, and we stand there eating but not saving. The girls didn't particularly like them, pies and jams are too seedy and require too much sugar, the blackberry has little cachet, little spirit - unlike its intense red cousin that embodies the idyll of summer.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Monday was a day of memories - you wrote about those "idyllic" picking days, and Grammy, Mama, Emma, and I reminisced about the days of elementary-school-Oak Terrace. Oh those were the days!