Friday, July 16, 2010

Very Grown Up Float

After lunch on an intensely hot, stifling day, there were berries that needed savoring. Berries picked when ripe have a brief window before starting to mold. In this heat, they wouldn’t make it to dinnertime. We could can them, freeze them, or enjoy them immediately.

The combining of flavor, texture, smell and temperature is a simple way to describe the act and art of cooking. A bowl of berries is one experience: room temperature, their color and texture and smell unique, simple and subtle. Sometimes a raspberry is just sweet or sour and leaves a lot of seeds in your teeth. And sometimes there is a quiet, commanding wash of floral taste and smell, a sweetness of concentrated sunlight and sugar.

I asked what did we have in the house that could help fulfill the experience of the berries. First I floated them in a glass of Pellegrino water. That was pretty, and good, but needed something else. Bubbles and fruit led me to remember a small amount of vanilla ice cream left in the fridge.

Ice cream, then the berries, then Pellegrino poured slowly into the glass. This combination fulfilled and then expanded the potential of each ingredient. The popping bubbles and the ice cream in the heat served as a metaphorical backdrop to the fleeting, fresh berries. The float also literally buoyed the berries, letting them float a few at a time into a sip or spoonful enhancing the feeling of their flavor and texture.

At the table watching Coral methodically sop up her float, nose crinkling at the bubbles, naming the colors of the blueberries, red raspberries, Jewel black raspberries, and pink currants, the rare sensation of truly sugary sweet ice cream, I compared this tender, summer moment of her childhood to the life of the berries.

Time, as we all know, does nothing but march forward. Seasons show us that things we love come back. In the ice and sleet and cabbage of January we know that July will come and bring her tender leaf lettuces and berries. But we as people, the phases of our lives, we change absolutely. Coral still has the rotund belly of childhood, but every day I see it thinning out to look more and more like her lanky big sister’s.

The precious seasons of babyhood and toddlerdom, these pass by and do not return. We grow bigger and lose our milky sweet smells. We have dirt under our nails and giggle fits grow less frequent. But tastes and experiences can bring out the feeling of wonder and adventure that is childhood. While we grow big and our bodies change ever so much, we can always combine bubbles, berries and ice cream, and on a hot summer day, feel like kids again.

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