Blackberry pie. Is summer ever complete without at least one day devoted to picking blackberries and making a blackberry pie?
There’s a ritual connected with blackberry picking. Rule number one is that it can’t be planned. You just have to be out taking a walk and voila! you spot some blackberry bushes. “BLACKBERRIES!” Someone shouts and drawn by some ancient and unexplainable law of nature, you run pell mell towards the bushes. Soon, your hands, your arms, your clothes are bathed in that sticky purple nectar.
I succumbed to the lure of the blackberry just this past week. True to the ritual, I did not plan to go berry picking. With seven year old Mark and nine year old Jennie as my companions, we had set out to take our new Village dog, Sammy, for a walk down the country road near home. Jennie spotted the blackberry bushes first and let out a scream of delight, BLACKBERRIES! (You could almost hear Sammy thinking, “So much for taking me for a walk.)
We plunged into the glorious cache of blackberries, squeezing and squishing, reaching out with bare arms towards the blackest and sweetest of that luscious fruit, dodging those nasty thorns. Drat! Why weren’t we smart enough to wear long pants? We were being faithful to ritual; that’s why. We were all wearing shorts and, of course, had no container for the berries we were picking.
We improvised. The plastic bag we brought along for Sammy’s business (never been used I assure you) served the purpose. Magically, the bag began to fill before our eyes. “Is this enough for a pie, Grandpa Hank?” “No Mark, we need more. I think it takes three or four cups for a pie.”
The day was hot. I felt my tee shirt sticking to my body. Mark was wearing a goodly portion of his haul on his shirt. “Ouch,” yelled Jennie, as the thorns attacked her bare legs. The three of us (and Sammy, who waited patiently in the shade) stuck to our task, intent on making these black beauties our own.
“Mark, don’t pick the ones that are still red,” admonished Jennie. “I’m not,” replied Mark indignantly. “Geez, I know THAT much.”
Still, it was obvious from the kids’ enthusiasm that they were having a ball. Forgotten for the moment was the grief they carried as victims of abuse and neglect. All that mattered was that they were enjoying this warm summer’s day picking blackberries. Mark yelled across the road to a woman passing by, “You know what? We’re gonna make a blackberry pie all by ourselves.” “With vanilla ice cream on top,” chimed in Jennie.
The bag was bulging with berries as we returned to my apartment. I never made any kind of pie in my whole life but there was no way I was NOT going to bake a pie for these kids. With the help of a recipe from the Internet and ready-made pie shells from Safeway, the kids and I put together a blackberry pie fit for the gods. Umm! Delicious.
In the great scheme of things, I suppose the experience of picking wild blackberries and baking a pie with a couple of foster kids is no big deal. But it’s a memory this old guy will savor for a long time. I dare to hope that the kids will, too.