From the Braver Institute
Blueberry season this year (so I am told) is supposed to be a very good one. Apparently the never-ending winter and the absence of spring is what is needed to produce a bumper crop, but I have no idea about such things even though I grew up in prime blueberry country.
People would come from all over the place to pick blueberries that grew abundantly in the sand among the pines of my childhood home. So plentiful were the blueberries that my mother could pick for hours in our backyard alone.
My summers were filled with the aroma of blueberry pies and blueberry buckle and the idea of such a thing may make the reader think how wonderful that may have been. I suppose it would be wonderful to me too if not for one thing …
… I hate blueberries.
Okay, I don’t mind eating blueberries, they do taste good. Okay, the blueberries in the stores don’t taste good, but wild blueberries taste good. The storebought blueberries don’t have much flavor at all.
I’m getting sidetracked.
Anyway, wild blueberries taste good, but if I never have a slice of blueberry pie again, it will be too soon. The curse that comes with growing up in the heart of blueberry country is that parents look upon children as free berrypicking laborers. From the time we were able to crawl Ma Braver would send us out to the fields to slave from sunup to sundown picking berries.
Okay, we weren’t that young and we didn’t have to pick that long, but we had to pick long enough for me to develop a strong disliking for blueberries. I didn’t have the patience to sit among the blueberry bushes and s-l-o-w-l-y try to fill an ice cream pail. Invariably I would end up eating more berries than would find their way to the pail.
Thinking about it now, I feel the same way about strawberries as I do about blueberries. When I was young my grandparents owned a farm where they grew strawberries, among other things. Similar berry picking orders were given to us whenever we visited the farm.
I can remember sitting in the strawberry patch eating my fill of strawberries and returning with an empty wooden basket (strawberries were a cash crop so a more dignified container than an ice cream pail was justified).
I remember Ma Braver telling me that if I didn’t pick a quart of strawberries that I wouldn’t get any strawberry pie. Fine by me. My disdain for picking strawberries significantly outweighed my desire for strawberry pie. Not eating pie in exchange for not picking berries was a better than fair trade from where I was standing.
Around the same time a similar ultimatum was issued regarding blueberry picking and with similar results. Goodbye blueberry pie. I’ll bet that I haven’t had blueberry pie in over thirty years and I haven’t missed it one bit.
Prior to writing this I was talking with my big sister, Sorta. I asked her if she ever had to pick strawberries on the farm. She told me that she didn’t but she did pick cucumbers and she was paid cash money to pick them. Now getting paid in greenbacks as opposed to pie is a horse of a different color. If I had been offered money for picking you probably wouldn’t have gotten me out of the field until the last berry was picked. With money I could have bought pie and I could have bought anything else I wanted at the time, like comic books, Mad magazines, or model airplanes. Cash is an amazing motivational tool.
Sure, I could have picked blueberries and/or strawberries and tried to sell them but that would involve trying to market them to people surrounded by blueberries and/or strawberries. It would have been like trying to sell the proverbial refrigerators to Eskimos.
It would seem that the only payment I could muster out of a berry was the instant gratification of eating the thing.
It reminds me of the last time I ever picked a berry. Ten years ago or so when I worked for my good friend Wayne Ghengis, the yard of his business was loaded with blackberries. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a blackberry bush that was so loaded with berries that the plant could barely support the weight. So plentiful were the blackberries that there was almost no need to bring a lunch. A couple of minutes of picking produced enough berries for a meal. The best part was that blackberries don’t grow close to the ground like blueberries and strawberries.
I still like blackberries. I’m glad Wayne never issued an ultimatum to pick the things.