Thursday, January 26, 2012

Berry Memories

Costco always has raspberries, and I always get some when I shop there, not usually  to use in recipes, although I have discovered the joys of freezer jam, but to munch down by the handful, to pig out, to indulge shamelessly. It is my definition of heaven on earth.
Whenever I eat a luscious raspberry I am transported back to my grandmother’s garden just outside of Portland, Oregon. I am nine years old again, and I am picking raspberries and eating them indiscriminately, wantonly, not knowing that I will never again have such a close relationship with this exquisite fruit.
Being raised in Western Oregon is at the same time a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because of the temperate climate, the definite identifiable seasons that don’t pass too quickly, the trees and flowers, the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, the nearness both to mountains and shore. It is a curse because with all of that perfection, you get spoiled, and no other place you live will ever measure up.
Nothing assails the senses like a trip to a farmer’s market where all this bounty is available. As a teen, I picked strawberries and green beans every summer to earn money for school clothes, and went in the fall with my mother and grandmother to harvest pears, apples, nuts and other tree fruits to fill the larder. I have joked with friends that I was raised in Oregon on nuts and berries, which explains why I like to hibernate in the winter like the bears.
One of the reasons I appreciate raspberries is that I know how hard it is to retrieve them. Thorny bushes can be intimidating, and the berries hide demurely behind leaves so the picker has to risk the thorns to find the treasure--life's like that sometimes. Like many other fruits, berries have to be picked at just the right moment. If too ripe they don’t keep very long, but if not ripe enough they’re too tart.
Mother used to can raspberries by the quart, back in the days before we had a freezer, and when it came to making punch for a party, she conjured up a magnificent nectar with a quart of those berries, some raspberry sherbet, some lemon-lime soda and other magical ingredients. We had fresh raspberry shortcake in season, but never enough, and in the winter we had raspberry jam, raspberry jello, and whatever delicious raspberry concoctions her creative mind could imagine. Since leaving home, I have paid the same kind of homage to the genius who first paired raspberries with chocolate.
Some people don’t like raspberries because of the seeds, but they just don’t know how to eat them. I learned in my grandmother’s raspberry patch that you put the tasty little red gems on your tongue, then press against the roof of your mouth to crush the berry, coaxing the sweet juice to dance joyfully with your taste buds. That way the seeds don’t have a chance to get stuck in your teeth. If you must chew, just don’t bite down all the way.
As I remember them, of course, Oregon raspberries were as big as thimbles and loaded with juice and flavor. I’ve been accused of exaggerating the big-ness and best-ness of everything western Oregon has to offer, and though I may be guilty of bragging, I’m not wrong.
So every time I go to Costco when it's not berry season where I now live, I grab a package of raspberries and I am immediately transported for a delicious moment back to my grandmother’s garden when I was nine years old and nothing mattered except finding the next thimble-sized, perfectly sweet ripe raspberry.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A New Perspective on…

1 be sick, spew, heave, retch, gag, get sick; informal: throw up, puke, purge, hurl, barf, upchuck, ralph.
2 regurgitate, bring up, spew up, cough up, lose; informal throw up, puke, spit up.
noun informal: puke, spew, barf.

AH (adorable hubby) doesn't often get sick to the point of losing his lunch, but one day this week he had a touch of flu and his lunch came up for consideration. He's over it now and we're all glad.

This isn't a frequent topic of conversation in our family, except when we go to dinner with AH's siblings, and one brother-in-law is inclined to choose as our destination Chuck-a-Rama, the popular buffet restaurant in Utah, which he usually refers to as "Upchuck." Maybe the first time you hear that it might be mildly amusing, but not the 101st. We're all willing to go there anyway when it's his turn to choose because they have favorites we don't make at home. I'm partial to the variety of salads, scones with honey butter, and bread pudding--which I take to the ice cream bar and squirt caramel sauce on.

Nevertheless, we've been talking about barf a lot lately. And cheering.

Yes--IVF worked, and our son and his wife are pregnant. Now she has morning sickness. I told him that if he wanted a full-spectrum experience, he could at least manage to throw in with her by throwing up with her a few times. He's thinking about it.

They've been married ten years and this is the first time they've been pregnant. We're so thankful for so many factors and medical miracles that have aligned to make this happen for them.

Ethan, our fifth grandbaby, will be eight years old in May so we've been baby-hungry for a while. Now we're all looking forward to August when this long-anticipated, much loved little person will arrive. And very happy at this point about the barfing.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Putting Christmas away

It seems an ironic way to say it--"putting Christmas away"--and I'm feeling a little melancholy, but it's more than just wrapping up all the decor and ornaments and stashing them in the garage for eleven more months.

I always loved the symbolism of an evergreen tree. It's alive all year round, doesn't lose its leaves or go dormant for a season, and it represents the eternal life that Christ offers. Having grown up among trees, I'm especially fond of all things "greenly leaping" as ee cummings has described them.

Our new house doesn't really have space for a big green live Christmas tree. Instead, we use a wrought iron tree especially for ornament display--no lights, no tinsel or garlands, no star at the top. I used to have Christmas music as the theme of the tree, with angels and musical notes and little parchment sheet music. Now the theme is "Let Heaven and Nature Sing," so I still have angels and music, but I also use birds and butterflies, pinecones and stars. It's all organic, too, with wood, clay, seashells, glass and metal.

It's not big or ornate or flashy, but our bare essentials tree represents the most important event since the creation, the event we celebrate in the winter even though it happened in the spring. There's no need to banish reminders of Christ just because it's not December anymore. So why should I put everything away? I want to keep visible in my home year-round reminders of what the birth of Christ represents; although the ornaments may go back in the storage boxes, my heart is still full of what the celebration really means. We have Christmas so we can have Easter.