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TODAY

Saturday, July 21

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Detour

I have never tried so hard to appreciate a summer. And in the dying days of this 2003 season, I must take pause to reflect on one aspect of my life that helped make this my most beautiful summer to date. I�ve been learning to cook, and as part of this education, I�ve been learning to shop. This is an art, a seductive indulgence. I have found few pleasures more intense than entering a grocery store at 10 at night, emerging from darkness into blazing bright light in the produce section. And in this place, this beautiful shiny place, I fell in love with one fruit in particular. If I were a believer in the concept of destiny, I�d say with total conviction that the blueberry was meant for me alone. We have the perfect marriage. Sure, you may partake, but this berry is mine.

Facts often separate experience from truth; however, a general grasp of detail is necessary for greater appreciation. And the blueberry, a staple of summer, delicate and fleeting, really merits a closer look in order for proper homage to be paid. The blueberry was domesticated in the early 1900s, but even after a hundred years of heavy cultivation, the taste of the berry remains simple. Seeds riddle the berry, but are so small as to be indistinguishable. The skin may stain your cutting board, your bright white shirt, but colonists turned this negative around by boiling blueberries in milk to make grey paint. A remarkable source of antioxidants and vitamin C, blueberries may prevent cardiovascular disease, memory loss, and of course, scurvy.

09182003_blueberries.jpg

Fig1. The object(s) of the author's desire.

I know all these things about my cherished fruit. But I don't particularly care. What matters is the choosing, the washing, and the eating. As soon as blueberries appeared in the store I picked up a ton of the dusty blue fruit, careful to avoid any boxes stained with juice. I brought them home and pulled out the large colander. Carefully, I picked over the mass, removing stems, wilted berries, and other field detritus. Then I rinsed them in lukewarm water as I swirled them gently with a lazy hand. It had been my intention to make a pie. I made many blueberry pies this summer and I will hazard to say that they were divine. But this was my first batch of berries and I had grown accustomed to the habit of cautiously and curiously tasting raw all veggies and fruit I planned to cook in order to really savor their essence.

I set aside enough berries for a pie or two, but I reserved a small bowl for immediate eating. I laid down the mantle of efficient domestic engineer and approached the next few minutes as a priest preparing Holy Communion. Instead of wafers and wine, I had cider and berries. Though I did not utter prayers as I drizzled the tiniest bit of amaretto over the berries, it did feel sacred. I gathered up the bowl, tucked a spoon in my pocket, and grabbed the cider and turned into the breeze from the open porch door. Before stepping outside, I paused on my threshold to gather every detail. Now, writing this article, it seems like a hundred years ago, although it was only June. The apartment is no longer mine and everything changed all at once, like the week in fall where the leaves turn from green to gold. But at that moment, I never expected such change; I just wanted the berries.

I sat in a deck chair and propped my feet up on another. The sky was so fucking blue with tufty white clouds so decadent I ended up taking a photo of them later that afternoon. But at that moment, I was too absorbed to document. The cider began to sweat in my hand. I placed it on the deck and drew out the spoon from my pocket. Instead of digging into the blue, it hovered over the berries. This instant, so gorgeous and fraught with happiness, should it be spoiled by indulging?

Yes.

I had anticipated the first bite since I bought the berries so that when they met my tongue, my whole mouth was pained by sated longing. But it was worth it. The taut skins burst between my teeth and juicy flesh filled my mouth. The amaretto, it turns out, was a heavenly addition to the fruit and would make appearances as one of the three ingredients in my summertime blueberry pies. Spoon after spoon brought more simple joy and I enjoyed it gratefully.

But the summer has ended. Just this weekend, I could really smell fall coming. Blueberries are harder to find and more expensive. But I don't lament their passing, because I'll see them again next year and in their absence, I'm looking forward to what I'll fall in love with this fall. For my money, I'm betting on the beet.

 

About the Author(s)

Shylo Bisnett suggests you use your hands to pick the best berries.

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