Monday, 22 August 2011

A berry good time

I remember walking along a trail in St. John's, Nfld., once and finding a Saskatoon berry ripe on the bush. As I popped it in my mouth my friend gasped in disbelief that I would EAT something I just FOUND out in the woods like that. She certainly didn't find it as funny as I when I silenced her lecture on the perils of poison by shoving one of the plump purple berries in her mouth.

Growing up in an extremely rural setting - Huck Finn didn't seem that strange to my brother and I - I have never feared the forest and wide open spaces as much as most. Yet after decades of concrete living the closest I was coming to the natural world was eating blackberries during my daily bike rides along Spanish Banks and up to UBC in late summer. I barely knew my huckleberries from a hole in the ground.

So I was eager to go picking chokecherries with my sister-in-law, whose kitchen concoctions amaze me and have become some of my most treasured Christmas loot: zuccini relish from her own garden, crab apple jelly from the tree in my parents' yard, canned salmon from the Fraser River fall fun.

My aunt showed us where to find the chokecherries, small, tart red berries that makes delicious syrup and wine but could set your mouth in a permanent pucker eaten right off the tree. Guess which I plan to try to make? Yes, wine.

My three young nephew helped us pick the berries. Okay, in all honesty ONE of my nephews helped us pick the berries while the others two ate raspberries faster than we could pick them and found the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen.

My nephews played a large part in my decision to move back home, along with my sister-in-law, my parents and all my other relations. In the city, I lived within shouting distance of people I wouldn't have recognized in a police lineup. Here, I'm surrounded by people who I'll eat Christmas dinner with.

So as I stripped the red berries from overburdened branches, I realized THIS was truly coming home - not to a place, but a way of living and being with people who make living worthwhile.

I'll let you know now the wine turns out.

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