When Americans think about Fall foods, many of them think apples or pumpkins or soup. I think raspberries.
Seasons may shape the food, but food also shapes our perception of the season. This means that the seasonal memories we build as kids often stem from the foods we enjoy during those times. For me, raspberries spell Fall.
Different raspberry varieties come into season at different times, and some peak during late summer/early fall. When I was growing up in New York, each Autumn we would make the hour-long trek to a U-Pick, organic farm that had, among many other crops, two long rows of raspberry bushes.
The farm was scruffy. This was back before “organic” was the buzz word it is today, so the farm was hardly a “destination.” This was also when farms left out tin cans for U-pickers to deposit honor-system cash for their crops (Does that still happen anywhere??). I remember carefully dressing for the outing, with long sleeves and pants to protect from bugs and thorns, boots that could get muddy, and sleeves that could get stained with raspberry juice. We would pull up into their driveway through a decrepit stone fence and park in front of the farmhouse where, every year, there was laundry drying on a line, apparently abandoned. No one would ever be around. My mom would deposit some cash in the can and we’d each grab a couple of pint containers to take into the field. Then we’d wade through tall grass, pass the cabbage patches, and trek over to the rows of raspberries.
There is something about berry picking that makes me feel grounded. It is quiet, slow work, so it might seem hard to believe that kids would want to partake. But even as a kid I knew there was something happening during that slowness, something connecting me to my roots, to my humanity. Gathering berries under a big sky, moving from bush to bush, eating two berries for every five I picked–I loved every minute. Even when I felt cold, or dirty, or hungry for more than raspberries, I knew those times spent in that field were special.
After we’d collected our share, we’d backtrack to another farm. This one had a store called Salinger’s, packed full with bushels of picked apples, gallons of cider, jars of homemade jams, fresh bread, and–best of all–old-fashioned donuts, still warm from the fryer. We’d load our car with all of it, and before we’d head home, I’d take a piece of donut and a handful of raspberries and stuff them all into my mouth. That, right there, is the taste of Fall.
As you are out and about this Autumn with your kids, what memories are you making with the food you eat? Share it with us @TasteQuestHQ, #OctoberQuest.