Friday, July 17, 2009
Snarfable (grown local)
(The picture: blueberries; my feet; one-half of my summer garden (a potted parsley plant-- the other one is basil); and parts of two Pothos plants, all hanging out on the balcony at my parents' house, because inside there isn't enough light for my camera to want to take a picture without a flash, and fruit this gorgeous deserves to be photographed in 100% natural light anyway.)
Today, a meditation on the snarfable fruits of summer.
You know how to pick a watermelon, right? You go around thunking on them (some people flip them with their fingers, but that hurts my fingers, so I just knock and it works fine for me) and listen for one with a nice, low tone. I personally feel that my success in the field of watermelon picking is partially due to my years playing cello under a strict teacher who made me listen carefully to the pitch I was making; it isn't so hard to transfer the skill to a pitch played on melons instead of strings.
Then you take it home and wash it off and cut it in half and then cut off an entire circular slice and cut off the rind and snarf it. Then, unless you were foolish and already ate some other kind of lunch, you eat another entire slice. (Also, please forgive the junior-high-ness of this, but part of the joy of this experience comes from the fact that watermelon burps are some of the best.)
This sort of event (specifically, melon-snarfing) has been repeated throughout my childhood, teenager-hood, and adulthood. I have also experienced heaven in the form of peaches the size of grapefruit, grown on the tree next to our front door, with skin so thick and sturdy and unattached that you just peel it off with a knife. Also, of course, are the lazy summer days when you wake up and think, "I'm starving and I just don't feel like fixing breakfast," and then you remember that the apricots are on, so you stumble out to the apricot tree (it's between the front and back yards, so it's a little further than the peach tree) and pick four or five ripe ones, and take them inside and rinse them off (just in case of-- um, diseased ants walking on them, or something) and by the time you are done eating them, you feel quite human.
And what has put me in mind of all these things? Well, a few weeks ago a woman from church emailed people at church and said that her family gets fresh blueberries from an Amish farm nearby every year-- $35 for a 20 pound box-- and if anyone wanted the same deal, she would be happy to pick them up for us. Long story short, the process ended up being more frustrating than I was expecting, and by the end of it I felt like it just wasn't worth the trouble. Not that I'm going to even be in the area next year.
However. I then TRIED the blueberries. Now, I knew that I liked blueberries, because I am willing to pay exorbitant prices for them (frozen, usually-- fresh are too expensive to be worth it) in Utah now and again. However. These blueberries turn out to be on a different existential plane than any I had ever tried in Utah, or even out here for that matter. They were picked-- all of them-- at the peak of ripeness. The first few seem perfectly normal, but then after a bit you realize that there aren't any sour or moldy surprises; they are ALL delicious, and that is when you end up snarfing two colanderfuls of blueberries within the space of half an hour. And this is also when you start thinking to yourself: maybe there really is something to this "eat local" schtick. I realized as I thought about it that probably all of the watermelons I have snarfed in Utah were grown in Utah, and that most of the blueberries I have eaten before now have traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles to get to me.
The funny part about all this is that my parents-- and I can say this with absolute certainty-- did not intend to raise me as a food snob. When they grew their own tomatoes and ground their whole wheat as they needed the flour and planted fruit trees, they were following the teachings of the latter-day prophets to be self-sufficient-- they weren't even thinking about how things tasted. I have been a student for so long, SO long, that I only daydream about having hundreds of pounds of wheat in storage and being able to grow a little garden patch, let alone being in one spot long enough to plant a fruit tree (or bush) and being around to harvest it the next year. But as I look forward to a new, slightly more stable, slightly less poor phase of my life, I have motivation for doing as my parents did from two sources: one, my devotion to following the teachings of the prophets; and, two, my ever-growing epicurean streak. Well, that, and blueberry burps.