06 June 2007

Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries

Yes, I just ate a bowl of cherries. ‘Tis the season for temperate fruits. Our modern world can bring us tropicals all year long – the bananas and oranges and sorts that were once so exotic people gave them as gifts at Christmas. Today they are staples, part of every reputable middle class fruit bowl on the counter or kitchen table of every reputable middle class home. Apples are so abundant they too are universally available and reasonable.

I have no problem with them. But my taste goes to the berries and the tree fruits like cherries and plums and peaches. They are the ones with the narrow window of glory, when they are abundant and good and cheap.

Well, comparatively cheap. I bought a bag of cherries yesterday, the northwest kind as our local ones are still ripening. They cost what I remember paying for sirloin twenty years ago. But they were so red, so ready, and compared to what I could have purchased that would have been so bad for me, well, what could I do. They are disappearing fast.

What can be more satisfying that pulling one from the stem through clenched teeth, masticating the flesh to release the pit and then enjoying the momentary morsel of firm flavorful substance? The act of eating them is half the pleasure. Like mussels or crabs, releasing the food is part of the pleasure – the seconds of anticipation as much a part of experience as the satisfaction.

Like strawberries, each cherry can vary in quality. They range from the frankly sour to the cloyingly sweet, hard to mushy, fire engine red to purplish black. There is a correlation between color and flavor, skin tone and texture, but it is inexact. And just as anticipation is part of the experience, variation is as well. Finding the perfect ones amid the comparatively sour and mushy makes the perfect explode deliciously in the mouth, an occasion the brain notices. A bit of adventure is embedded in the whole process.

The first wave of strawberries has passed (they were as low as $1 a pound for a few days and I gorged while it lasted). The cherries will not last much longer. Nectarines are beginning to appear, and then the plums. Of course, the bush berries are another pleasure, and sometime in late summer they will be abundant and cheap and I will feast on black and blue and ras as I have the strawberries.

I thought age would make me jaded to the joys of youth, but oddly I find those just as grand now. Truly, ‘tis a gift to be simple.’ I am grateful that the boy I was is party of the man I am.

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