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What’s in a name?

July 14, 2011

A Bowl of Raspberries. I had been contemplating this blog for a few weeks, but put off creating it for lack of a name. Many things can stall in the absence of an appropriate beginning. Then a couple nights ago, sitting on the couch with my husband and cat sharing a true summer delight, the answer was right in front of me: in the form of tart, luscious black raspberries, picked a few days before, sprinkled over and swimming through silky vanilla ice cream.

A bowl of fresh raspberries and Breyer’s vanilla (or plain soymilk) is one of life’s simplest and most unbelievable pleasures. Every year is as good as the first time, because in the meantime, you forget just how amazing it is. The first sun-warmed tomato is like that, or the first time you discover a new, unusual food that’s been prepared really well.

Fresh raspberries, like any good produce, are a guilt-free indulgence. An indulgence that, when it volunteers wild in your backyard with no needed maintenance the rest of the year, seems like a ridiculous gift.

My grandma had huge red raspberries growing behind her farmhouse outside Rockford. I can still feel their smooth, somewhat dusty-feeling flesh, covered with fine hairs, as I picked them. They were so big they could easily fit on the ends of my fingers and thumbs. Of course, that was probably relative to the size of my thumbs at the time. No store-bought raspberry will ever approach their taste.

A big bramble of black raspberries has thrived year after year in my dad’s vegetable garden. I don’t remember if anyone planted it. In fact, it has jumped locations over the years, a true living colony. It starts to ripen just around the fourth of July. Picking a big bowl of these raspberries in the morning to have with breakfast, or in the summertime dusk, is one of my favorite childhood memories. (Sugary cereal isn’t the only thing that can turn the milk colors. Crushed black raspberries turn it a vibrant purple.)

After the BP oil spill happened (and continued to happen) last summer, Garrison Keillor wrote a column that appeared in the Tribune editorial section. It provided some solace – another thinking, caring person, expressing a shared sense of despair and frustration. He did the only thing he could think to do, in the face of our self-destructive behavior, indifference to the natural world, inaction on environmental problems, and cynical politicking: He sat in his yard, watched the Mississippi go by, and ate a bowl of fresh raspberries with ice cream.

I can’t say what he felt after that. But what I felt was that if such simple pleasures tied to the land are still possible in our world, then all is not lost.

At the bottom of a bowl of fresh raspberries, picked by hand or from the market, is comfort and a feeling of contentment. A feeling of family, community, and continuity. At the bottom of a bowl of raspberries maybe is hope. And all of that is what this blog is about.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ron Leopold permalink
    July 14, 2011 12:56 pm

    Your blog is alive! Nicely done.

    Little history … Mama started the black rasberry colony from cuttings from Grandma Powell. First started a grape arbor in this location because we had a grape arbor in Louisville before we moved.

    Think it was too wet for grapes and decided to convert to an asparagus bed. Later started the rasberries as was good location that saw sun most of the day. Rasberries eventually dominated area crowding out the asparagus. But we had about 10 decent seasons of asparagus before bed was all.

    Relocated asparagus bed last year.


    • July 14, 2011 11:20 pm

      Thanks for the rest of the story! So it seems when we move out, the plants go with us.

      I do NOT remember a grape arbor, but definitely remember the asparagus bed (or really, asparagus forest)!

  2. July 14, 2011 9:30 pm

    The house in Galena has four or five young mulberry trees growing around it now. Nobody can figure out where the mulberry trees came from, but they were certainly not there when we built the house. The irony is that my father had a mulberry tree growing up in LeRoy.

    • July 14, 2011 11:22 pm

      Mulberries are delicious. I could write a whole entry on mulberries. They’re an even more random volunteer fruit than raspberries.

      Birds may have deposited the seeds there for you.. 🙂

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