In mid-June (the summer is positively whizzing by: I’m finally getting to this post on the last day of July) I decided that berry picking is the perfect antidote to despair, and with this new revelation, visited the strawberry field at a beautiful local farm three times over the course of two weeks. Berry picking was also a chance to invite and visit with friends for brief but meaningful co-picking meet-ups in the brightly hued expanse.
As summer began, I found myself feeling very sad following the premature death of our cat and disturbed by the onslaught of ticks; the out-of-doors feeling less a place of solace than it has been all my life. I weathered the chronic inner turmoil of a busy self-employed creative person who often feels as if I’m spinning my wheels, hard-wired as I seem to be with a generous dose of amorphous worry. I mourned such global and existential concepts as destruction, aggression, ruin, global warming, and all of the broken systems in our country: education, health care, prison, social services. This episode of This American Life, and this one, underscored existing concerns and sent me over the precipitous edge, leaving me to wonder if I should even get out of bed in the morning, or if we should sell most of our possessions and travel around with a Scamp camper trailer in tow looking for inspiration and hope, throwing caution to the wind, eschewing the pedestrian need to save for retirement and embracing a life of fearless adventure fueled by a withering faith in humanity because what does it all mean and matter anyhow?
But then, the berries saved me.
Here were these shockingly day-glow-bright globes dangling from greenery and I thought, as I hunted for them like jewels under leaves, that I’d take this dazzling beauty over a diamond any day. Not surprisingly, one month later I am in a happier place. Always in flux, we are.
The narrow window of local ripe pick-able fruit in the Northeast lends a certain fleeting desperation to gather as many as possible before the season ends as if I’ve no other choice for sustenance through the winter. As a child I used to love to play prepare-for-natural-disaster games. “The storm is coming! Hurry!” I’d shout to my friends, “We need more sticks for the lean-to!” We’d run through the woods in search of large branches, clumsily stacking them against a tree as I urged us to finish our shelter before the terrible storm/cold/wind/rain. This was my equivalent of downhill skiing or stunt jumping on skateboards, bikes or sleds.
Obsessive berry picking must tap into some primal hard-wired need I have for self-reliance and urgent preparation by stashing food away for the desolate winter (it matters not that Whole Foods is right down the street). Our friend Kristin recently attended what she described as a pop-psychology-but-still-useful weekend seminar on understanding gender nuances. Over dinner she reviewed: “Men are single focus, single focus,” she said gesturing with flat hands next to her face depicting blinders/a narrow hallway. “Hunters. Even if you leave a bag of trash right by the door to take out, if they’re on their way to work and they’re in that mode, they’ll just step right over it. Women on the other hand are the gatherers and need to know where all the berry bushes are. They see the big picture. They’re like orchestra conductors.” Since this conversation, I have been telling Chris not to worry because I know where all the berry bushes are. He did not think this was amusing while we were scrambling to freeze twenty pounds of them the night before leaving for our vacation. First on cookie sheets to freeze them individually, then into bags.
To my recollection, I’ve never been strawberry picking so I made up for it this year with thirty pounds of them. My friend Dorina helped me sort through them. I had big aspirations to make jam. I also wanted to make this cocktail and this dessert. In the end, time being limited, I froze them and have been using them in simple smoothies (one cup or so of frozen berries, hemp or almond milk, chia seeds and a dropper full of liquid stevia) and healthy desserts. Next on the agenda before the summer’s out: blueberry, peach and apricot picking from here or maybe here.
Vegan Raw Cheesecake with Strawberry Tapioca (adapted from Ani Phyo)
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup pitted and chopped medjool dates or other semi-soft dates
- 2 tablespoons liquified virgin coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups raw soaked, drained (one-four hours soak in water) cashews
- 3/4 cup filtered water
- 3 tablespoons liquified virgin coconut oil
- seeds from two vanilla beans or 2 tablespoons alcohol free vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup powder or liquid lecithin (I used sunflower-based liquid available in health food stores) for thickening
- 2 dropper fulls alcohol free liquid stevia
- Either 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, blended in food processor and sweetened by liquid stevia or honey OR
- Stewed 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries simmered on low, sweetened to taste by stevia or honey…add 1/4 cup quick-cooking small tapioca pearls… cook until the desired thickness
To make the crust, combine the almond meal and salt in a mixing bowl (sprinkle your pie pan with some of this to prevent sticking), add dates and coconut oil and mix into a dough with your hands. Press the dough into the pan as thinly as possible, the crust should reach at least halfway up the pan. To make the filling combine all filling ingredients but the lecithin into a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Add lecithin and blend well to thicken. Scoop into crust and refrigerate pie for 1-2 hours to firm. Add topping just before serving. If you store the pie and topping seperately, they’ll keep for 5 days in fridge.