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The Philosophy of Juice & Crackers
9 September 2014
Growing up in San Francisco, I did not come from a tradition of the "harvest." My mother, having been raised on a ranch, lived for planting and harvesting and in our teeny little plot of land in San Francisco, in a raised bed (mayber 3' by 6') she optimistically planted carrots, parsley and lettuce and probably other things. I remember harvesting carrots a good 3" long and thin as a pencil. Not enough to build a great interest in future harvests.
The first "harvesting" that I actually did was visiting my grandparents' farm. There was a corn field, but I don't remember ever going into it, but I do remember the blackberry wall and going with my sister and cousins and picking berries, our fingers stained purple and our bellies filling up faster than the buckets we carried. We swatted away a lot of bees (amazingly I don't think I was ever stung), but it was worth it for our crop. When we had finished we took the berries into the kitchen, where Grandma would turn them into delicious pies or cobblers and where I would make my own berry shortcakes by smashing a berry between two of the Lorna Doone shortbread cookies Grandma kept in the laundry room on a shelf over the washing machine.
Before there were blackberries, there was Grandma's strawberry patch, but I was too young to really remember doing anything in it. I only have photographic evidence that I enjoyed tasting the berries there.
I also remember going to a farm once, that friends of my parents owned, where Karen and I got to climb Bing Cherry trees and harvest cherries to bring home with us.
When Walt and I were living in Oakland, after all the kids were old enough, I went through my "earth mother" period. I made all of our bread, for one thing. Char and I would go to the local grain store (I think it was next to the East Bay Vivarium, where they sold snakes and lizards and other creepy crawlies. I checked their web site today and I see that there is a Boa Price List, a Lizard Price List, a Feeder Price list, and a Boarding Price list. I hope they don't mix up their sale items with their boarding items.
But I digress.
In the grain store I learned to experiment with all sorts of different flours. I made white bread and wheat bread and cracked wheat bread (my favorite), and rye bread. The house was always filled with the aroma of rising dough and baking bread. I even made sourdough bread from a starter I kept for years and years until one day, in Davis, our then-foreign student boarder decided to help me by cleaning out my refrigerator one day while I was out and proudly told me she had tossed out this terribly smelling thing in a bowl in the back of the fridge. Sigh.
We also took the kids out to Brentwood once or twice a year. Brentwood was a great place at that time--out in Contra Costa county, where there were wonderful orchards and you could harvest your own fruit. Now I suspect all those orchards are high end housing developments (the city of Brentwood grew by 221% between 2000 and 2010, for example), but in the 1970s you could pick apricots and peaches and one glorious year we picked cherries.
All of us climbed trees and loaded up containers and brought them home, where I would turn them into jams, preserves, pies, and canned fruit. If we'd had a juicer in those years, what wonderful juices I could have created.
When we moved to Davis, the lot on which we built our house already had an apricot tree and we planted peaches, plums, apples and nectarines. In the early years we had good yields, but most of the trees eventually died and we never replanted. We still get a few apples and sometimes a few nectarines (tiny ones) if the birds don't get to them first. The last year before our peach tree got peach blight the tree exploded and I have a photo somewhere of David surrounded by about 6 overflowing buckets of beautiful ripe peaches. The next year, we had to cut the tree down.
We also tried raising vegetables and that was fun for a year or two, but the tomato horn worms kept me from raising the tomatoes I loved, the corn was delicious, but didn't yield enough for the 7 of us to have a meal out of, and the biggest thriving crop was zucchini, which nobody liked.
So my farm days died aborning.
I have no desire to return to my shallow earth mother roots, but it is fun to remember the days when we worked together to gather various foods and my working to create various things out of our harvest.
Smuckers does it better, but there's no romance or
adventure in that.
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