by Mindy Trotta
Many of my childhood summers were spent in the Catskill Mountains. The rural escape was a mere two hours north of my apartment in Brooklyn, and on this particular trip my friends and I had traveled up with our parents for a rural escape. Just minutes from our summertime bungalow was a blueberry bramble. This bramble was a short walk down the road and could be reached through a clearing in the bushes.
Our mission was to find as many berries as we could, and armed with plastic bowls, buckets, and dented metal colanders, our little army embarked on a treasure hunt. The sun was high, its rays hot shards that pierced through the branches covered with berries. The sky was blue and paled only in comparison to the deep color of our quest. We were nicely hidden once we passed through the clearing, and unless one knew we were there, he would be hard pressed to find us. The only sound we made was with our berries: “blue jujubes” I liked to call them.
The first few to hit the containers plinked softly. “Don’t throw them,” the grown-ups admonished. As the bowls and buckets filled and berries piled upon berries, the sounds became more muffled. Time passed and we developed a rhythm: picking and filling, picking and filling, and here and there a break in the continuity as we stopped to sample. Some berries were firm and tart; picked too soon. Others were sweeter, softer and would fall apart in my fingers if I treated them too harshly.
Pick me a blueberry.
– Bruce Degen
There was an unspoken sense of competition hanging over our heads. The intermittent bursts of sun felt hot on my skin and I had to proceed with great care so as not to get pricked by the thorns. Every once in a while one would catch my tee shirt and I would ever so gently pry myself from its grasp all the while trying not to draw blood. Old tee shirts and jeans were the uniforms.
In the battle between skin and barbs, and berry juice and fabric, barbs and berries were the victors every time. After a long while, someone called, “Finish up!”and our ragtag group emerged from the hideout, scraped, stained, and squinting at the full daylight that accosted our now shade-acclimated eyes. We trudged home, bellies and bowls filled with berries, glancing furtively at one another to see whose containers were filled higher than our own.
Mindy Trotta is a pastry chef, small business owner (Flour Girl Desserts), former editor and blog writer at relocationtheblog.blogspot.com.