Thursday, May 21, 2009

Epitome of Summer

There are few things that represent Summer quite as intensely as raspberries for me. Aside from sun, sand, and water, the menu of summer in general also brings a sunny nostalgia: sweet corn, cucumber salad, watermelon, barbecued chicken, and so on, but raspberries surpass these taste associations by far. Growing up we had a raspberry patch in the back yard. It started as one plant, which I believe my grandfather had transplanted from his yard to ours, as a sort of experiment to see if we could cultivate a few handfuls of berries to garnish our corn flakes. We had already tried growing strawberries to no real avail and as I recall they were eventually mowed by accident. Not only did the raspberries thrive, they multiplied exponentially without much in the way of manicuring on our part. Every summer the bramble spread until it was growing far beyond the yard's edge and into the neighboring field and woods. So many summer mornings I would get up ready to head straight to the beach or out for a bike ride only to find my fate on the kitchen table, that of several empty mixing bowls and a note from my Mom, "Please pick before you go. Love, Mom". It was one of my sole chores in the summer (the other was mowing the lawn) and eventually there were no notes, only empty bowls, no explanation necessary. Our crop yield was astounding. I could spend over an hour filling containers and still see ripe red fruit spotting the shrubs. We froze many pounds and gave bags to the neighbors encouraging them to come into the yard and help themselves anytime. We had raspberries on cereal, we made raspberry pancakes, muffins, we put them in salads and on ice cream and, of course, we ate them by the handful as I did whilst picking. For as much time as I spent engaged in the chore, I'm not sure I ever disliked it. In fact, they are fond memories, these Summer mornings. It was often meditative and also productive, a good way to start any day. I often gathered solo, but it was also something that my mother, sister and I would do together, usually laughing over the astonishment of the overgrowth of our raspberries that exceeded in confirming our hypothesis that the plant would survive. Probably the only bad thing was how scraped up my arms were so frequently from the thorns, the raspberry bush is in the same family as the rose bush after all. I no longer tend to a crop of berries, but I bought some today and after taking the photos I popped one onto my tongue and thought, "tastes like Summer."