(the latest entry is always on top,
LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF CHERRIES
28 May 2005
I'm sitting here munching a big bowl of cherries. The approaching summertime in this area means a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables available for sale at the Farmers' Market each Saturday. We've been indulging in fresh strawberries and fresh cherries for three weeks now. Last Saturday, the guy at the cherry stand told Walt that if he bought two baskets, he'd throw in a third one for free, so we've pretty much had all the cherries we want to eat this past week.
When I was a kid, I guess I knew that cherries grew on trees ('cause George Washington chopped one down), but I never saw a cherry tree until we were invited to visit some friends of my grandparents, who owned a cherry orchard south of San Francisco. All that orchard land is gone now, having long ago been covered up with housing developments, but there was a time when you could drive down the Peninsula past orchard after orchard dripping with all sorts of fruit.
I remember climbing up into the cherry tree with a bucket and eating more cherries than I actually picked--and picking a lot. I still remember the fresh, full flavor of those plump, tree-ripened bing cherries.
It seems to me that the orchard land was sold the following year, so I think we only had the chance to pick cherries this one time.
When our own kids were little, we used to make a trip or two each year out to Brentwood, perhaps an hour's drive from Oakland, where we were living at the time.
The growers had a real deal going there. People went out into the fields to pick their own fruit, which they paid for--the fruit got harvested, the farmers got paid, and they didn't have to harvest the fruit themselves.
Mostly we picked apricots. Boxes and boxes of apricots. I made huge batches of apricot jam each year, and apricot pies, and just served apricots for snacks.
We also picked peaches which made fantastic home-made ice cream in the days when making ice cream was a community affair which consisted of everybody taking a turn turning the hand crank on the ice creama bucket, as the cream got harder and harder, then watching the kids standing around the dripping paddle, all licking the melting ice cream.
Somehow it's not quite the same experience when you just dump stuff in a bowl and turn on an electric machine that gives you ice cream in a matter of minutes. As with everything else, modernization is good, but the price you pay is the loss of the experiences that would get the whole family--and extended family--engaged in a communal activity and then enjoy the fruits of our labors afterwards.
The harvesting trip I loved the most was the year we picked cherries. I guess that I loved picking cherries the most because they were the most colorful. And those are fruits which are not as easy to come by as apricots and peaches.
I did a lot of "cherry pitting" in my day, making fresh cherry pies, though I didn't like cherry jam, jelly, or ice cream as much as just eating the fresh cherries themselves.
Several years ago, I flew to Houston to bake a cherry pie for my friend Bill's birthday, the year before he died. I planned the trip for a year and was so excited to make the pie for him. As it turned out, I didn't cook it long enough and even I could tell that it was pretty awful, but he was gracious and ate it anyway.
I never realized that a bowl of cherries could elicit such memories.
Here is some more reading for people who care about animals and want to help prevent cruelty toward beings who can't talk for themselves.
PHOTO OF THE DAY