Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yellow, blue

On Saturday, on my way across the Valley of the Gowanus, I stopped at the Union St. Bridge garden and took a shot of this bee. Note the underside of the abdomen; that’s not pollen, that’s her natural coloring, so she isn’t a honey bee. As I was crouching, somebody across the street yelled how much she liked the garden. I stood up and said wasn’t it wonderful, and then she thanked me. I was wearing a straw hat, so perhaps I looked like a gardener. I quickly set her right. I too am just an admirer. I was on my way to Grand Army Plaza, where I was interviewed about beekeeping, for a New School student making a documentary.

The Commodore can confirm this: my mother made the best blueberry pie we’ve ever eaten. She could whip out a piecrust in nothing flat: flaky crisp, sweet, perfect, without any effort. The berries, sometimes hand-picked in tick-infested brambles out by the airport, were squirted with a little lemon juice and a bit of sugar.

Pastry is my weakest link in the kitchen, and piecrust constantly defeats me, but whenever I make blueberry cobbler, as I did recently, I tend towards the Prousty…

My mom was an Okie. She was raised on a farm near Cohasset that went belly up in the Depression; her people didn’t go west to the land of Do-Re-Mi, they returned east to Collinsville, IL. She didn’t hang around there, though. She was working for the State Department in Baghdad in the 1950s, when it was still veddy Anglophile (the disaster-seeding Brits had thrown up another of their instant-kings there after the collapse of the Ottoman couch) and met my dad, who worked for State’s courier service, in Germany. Even overseas, she kept her farm-perspective. We grew up away from the superdupermarket, mostly, and ate hand-made meals all the time. She made jams and put things up. (There was still stuff to eat a year after she died.) We ordered Walnut Acres peanut butter (peanuts in their skins, period) by the five-pound tin. We didn’t drown in processed sugar, and had very little of the fake food pumped out by the food industry year after year. I was probably ten when I tasted my first glass of Kool-Aid. All I remember is that I spent the afternoon pissing the poison out.

I was thinking this as I watched the blueberry juices bubble up over the edge of the cobble topping, molten, sticky blue-purple-black, like the sheen on a grackle’s back.


Amy Elizabeth said...

you and i are kindred spirits, i think.

I was raised by hippie health nut parents, eating seasonally and locally before the icky word locavore was in america's lexicon. My dad baked our bread and my sister and i had farm stands on the road, tomatoes in the summer and mums and pumpkins in the fall.

I had my first donut when I was 12 at a slumber party. I really liked it and had 3 more. then i threw up 20 minutes later and i never told anyone.

Thew said...

I think my first donut was homemade, at least that's the one I remember. Halloween. O, man, was it good. I put on another mask and went back for another. This was before everyone was so paranoid about razors in apples, etc., those urban myths spread by the candy manufacturers.

Gerry Gomez Pearlberg said...

What fine writing. I was just now outside, contemplating the still-green blueberries and envisioning future pies of future blue.