There is something magical about picking, eating and cooking with fresh, local produce. This beautifully written piece about noshing on and preparing locally picked raspberries was written by a friend of mine, Georgia Woodruff. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me! Enjoy!
Simple Summer Foods
by: Georgia Woodruff, Tewksbury, NJ
One of the things I love most about summer is that even the simplest of foods seem decadent. Jersey tomatoes with fresh cheese and bread. Strawberries with ricotta-coffee cream. Sizzling steaks and new potatoes. These are foods that require almost no recipes and only the tiniest bit of work in the kitchen, yet they will be some of the tastiest meals I’ll serve all year. This may be due, in part, to the abundance of natural sugars in the fruits and vegetables available locally in the summer months. Whether you grow your own, shop at the farmer’s market, or are lucky enough to know of a trove of wild berries, foods made with seasonal ingredients will taste better, and perhaps be healthier, than anything you can buy off the grocery store shelf out-of-season.
Yesterday I took advantage of the wild raspberries growing in abundance on the parkland near my house. In the heat of mid-morning I dragged my two children into grassy fields populated by gnats and sticker bushes to hunt for the defensive little gems. We used our “go-go-Gadget” arms to reach deep into the hedges, yelping at every prick and scratch. I’ll admit there was a lot of grumbling. Even the dog looked annoyed. But as the berries began to pile up in our baskets, the complaining about the heat and bugs and injuries gave way to silly songs that began “blackberry—ouch”! And in 90 minutes we had about six cups of mixed wild berries. That was more than enough to make about a half-gallon of home-made raspberry ice cream today.
Sure, I could have driven all the way to the grocery store and bought perfect-looking, jumbo berries, or even just a pint of gourmet ice cream, in less time than it took us to walk to the park and pick our uneven little fruits. But then our morning wouldn’t have been much of an adventure. And we wouldn’t have had the chance to argue about the merits of adding chocolate shavings to the soft pink mess swirling around in the ice cream maker. And that is the best part about cooking: the control it gives me. I love that I got to choose how much sugar to use, to decide not to make a custard base, to substitute some milk for cream to cut down on the fat. Making my own food makes that possible. That’s a win for anyone who cares about what they eat. And after all the pureeing and mixing and freezing was over, there were still berries left to spoon over pound cake for breakfast.
Yeah, I’ll let my kids eat that for breakfast tomorrow. How could I, you ask? It’s easy. I know from whence those berries came. I know in two weeks they will be gone and we won’t do it again until next year. (Or until we move on to peach cobbler next month…) And I agree with Michael Pollen, whose manifesto In Defense of Food stated: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I want my kids to see food for what it is: nourishment for the body and soul.