Alice in Wonderland birthday parties; Spanish-speaking nannies; healthy children harvesting perfect blue chicken eggs from the back-yard coop; homeschooled wonders who read by age three; flat, tight bellies; happy husbands; cake pops; craft time […] homemade lip balm; tremendous flat pans of paella prepared over a beach campfire. What sort of sadist is running these Internets? And, more important, how do these blogs not constitute acts of violence against women? -Samantha Hunt (“A Love Story“)
A few weeks ago, when the weather was still so suffocatingly hot that your own sweat had started to feel like a second and most definitely unwanted layer of clothing, the Greek and I decided to go berry picking at a local farm. While this activity sounds summer perfect–rustic, fun, and romantic; it is, in its own way, all of these things–the reality is that carefully plucking individual berries from the bush in the hot sun is hard work. Truly, it is the kind of work that we all should consider when, whether at a farmers’ market or a supermarket, we pick up a container of berries and go on our merry way. Never forget that somebody, somewhere, painstakingly gathered those berries, and that, to collect enough for a single pie (as signs around the farm cheerfully pointed out: it takes four cups of blueberries to make a pie!) it can take at least an hour, if not longer. Compare this to apple picking, when, after only thirty or forty minutes at an orchard on a crisp fall day, you may easily have picked 12-15 pounds of apples and not even broken a sweat. I’ve thought about this a lot and if you really want to highlight two different things, the saying shouldn’t be “apples to oranges,” it should be “apple picking to berry picking.” I may, in fact, adopt this saying.
The difficulty of the work aside, I personally think not only is it worth it, but that it’s as fine a way to spend a summer afternoon as anything else. And believe me when I say that there is no better berry than one warmed by the sun and eaten right off the berry bush. This alone is enough of a reward.
When I told my colleague that the Greek and I had gone berry picking over the weekend as we exchanged our Monday morning pleasantries, she asked why we had to be so disgustingly cute and why we couldn’t just go to a grocery store and argue like a normal couple in the parking lot. I am telling you this not to reinforce the belief that we are an adorable and ideal couple living out a “slow food” fantasy in the tiny state of Delaware (we are not), but to reveal to you something that you probably already know: the Internet isn’t real. Or it is real enough, but it ultimately communicates only half the story, just like my telling my colleague that we went berry picking was really just a brief description of what we did.
It didn’t explain that it was sweltering; that we had, at the Greek’s suggestion, biked there, although I had been sure to voice my concern about biking with freshly picked berries; that, on our way to the farm, we biked by the stinkiest summer roadkill, something that no nose should ever have to smell; that our hands were sticky with both sweat and berries by the time we finished at the farm; that, when we paid at the end, the guy looked at us like we were crazy for asking for a bag for the blackberries (again, as articulated by me, who bikes to pick berries?); that, as we stood there in the hot parking lot with the darkening sky above us, contemplating how to transport the berries, I again asked the Greek why we couldn’t just be normal and drive to pick berries; that, on the way home, I hit a huge pothole and nearly lost the bag of blueberries in my basket; that, by the time we arrived back at the house, the blackberries had leaked all the way through the Greek’s backpack and all over the back of his shorts; that, as soon as we got in the house, the heavens opened and four inches of continuous rain poured from the sky.
This, this is life.
It wasn’t a grocery store parking lot, nor was it anything resembling a real fight, but neither was it, as it initially may have seemed, all heavenly and freshly picked berries from the bush. When life gives you crushed blackberries from a bike ride to an orchard, however, there are many things you can do. While sipping Prosecco with some of the damaged berries, the Greek set to work on making Sweet Corn and Blackberry ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, I, like Queen Bey and many women before me, made lemonade. And not just any lemonade, but the gorgeously hued Blackberry and Turmeric Lemonade from a recent issue of Food and Wine. It looked nothing like the stunning picture in the magazine, but, hey, few things ever do. More importantly, its appearance did nothing to impair its simultaneously spicy and tangy berry-infused taste, which is all that really matters.
Before posting the recipe, which really is the epitome of non-alcoholic summer perfection, I wanted to share some recent articles worth reading, the usual dose of food for thought:
I never took a class with Nicholas Dames while I was at Columbia (one of my great college regrets), but I’m sure, given his appreciation for Jane Austen, that I would have adored him.
For the past two summers, we’ve enjoyed the wonder of DelShakes, the local Shakespeare festival, which allows you to experience Shakespeare’s plays outside as they were meant to be experienced (minus the rowdy crowd, I suppose).
Once upon a time, I was allergic to milk, so I very much appreciate that vegan ice cream has hit its stride.
Who said cherries were just for dessert? I made this recipe recently, substituting farro for the brown rice, and the Greek and I were as happy as clams.
Now that avocado toast has become mainstream (and has been written about to death), it seems another food war is brewing, this time over the perhaps more deserving queso.
As a former academic, I know firsthand that graduate students need all the help they can get. This article, which is nothing if not tragic, drives that point home more than ever; however, some of the details about one student’s suicide remain disturbingly murky.
For the map lovers amongst us and for my Slavic friends, a map of the Gulag Archipelago.
A sad story of pregnancy and social media.
I don’t always believe in these lists of the 12 (or 8, 10 or 20) best new restaurants, but I do think they are fun to read.
Now that Season 7 of Game of Thrones is halfway over and George R.R. Martin has again failed to deliver Book 6 (it’s never happening), I’m turning my readerly attention to Hilary Mantel, who I hope against hope won’t leave us waiting forever for the final installment of the Wolf Hall series.
Speaking of books, while reading Ali Smith’s wonderful Autumn, I discovered a female pop artist I had never heard of before and who was once described in the following way: “Actresses often have tiny brains. Painters often have large beards. Imagine a brainy actress who is also a painter and also a blonde, and you have Pauline Boty.” Given this description alone, I think we need more Botys in our lives.
As my trip is now 14 days away (!), I have Italy on the brain; I’ve been perusing Venice food guides, articles about the best public gardens in Italy, and trying to follow this wise advice about Italian small towns vs. tourist destinations.
Now, to the lemonade:
Blackberry and Turmeric Lemonade
From the July 2017 issue of Food and Wine
Makes 8 servings
Because we had at least 6 pounds of blackberries and needed to get through them quickly, I decided to double this recipe, which is hardly the worst thing ever to happen in my kitchen.
As I said earlier in this post, the drink, as described by Food and Wine, is supposed to be a layered lemonade, with the turmeric layer on the bottom and the fizzy blackberry syrup on top. I tried several (actually, eight) times to get it to turn out like the picture, but, no matter how slowly I poured in the blackberry syrup, it would sink. The Greek, my Kitchen Scientist, suggested that I was doing this the wrong way, since the fruit syrup should be heavier than the turmeric syrup, but I insisted this couldn’t be since turmeric is heavy and, after all, why would the magazine photo lie? Clearly, I need to live by my own words about the internet. But whether layered or not, the lemonade is still a striking purple-red shade.
The flowering Thai basil isn’t a necessary garnish, as I know it is hard to find (we grew some in our garden this year and have a surplus), but it makes for a pretty touch.
1 1/3 cups of sugar, divided
1 cup of fresh lemon juice (5-6 lemons)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
8 ounces blackberries
24 ounces seltzer
sprigs of flowering Thai basil, to garnish (optional)
lemon wheels, to garnish (optional)
Bring 2/3 cup of sugar and 2/3 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, pour the syrup into a quart jar and refrigerate until cold. Then add the lemon juice, turmeric and 2 cups of water. Cover and shake to combine. The lemonade will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
While the sugar syrup is cooling in the fridge, combine the blackberries with the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, breaking the berries up with a heatproof spatula or spoon.
Set a large fine mesh strainer over a small bowl, then strain the syrup through it (you can save the berries, although largely seeds, to eat with yogurt for breakfast). Cover and refrigerate until cold. The blackberry syrup will keep in the fridge for two weeks.
To serve, fill Collins glasses with ice. Shake the turmeric lemonade and then divide it amongst the glasses (if making only a few servings at a time, you would need to add 4 ounces of tumeric lemonade to each glass). Whisk together the blackberry syrup and seltzer (again, for only a few servings, you would need 1.4 ounces of blackberry syrup and 3 ounces of seltzer for each glass) and then pour it over the lemonade. Do not mix (if your lemonade isn’t layered like the photo, this does not matter). Garnish with the Thai basil and lemon wheel, if using. Serve immediately.