(Warning--alliteration alert ahead. Sorry, I just couldn't help myself. It wasn't intentional, but the following post is fairly dripping with it!)
One of the highlights of our trip to the NW was a quintessential small-town evening at a farm on Sauvie Island.
In the summer, the fields are full of fruits and flowers. And on this particular July evening, there was a bluesy band performing under the pergola while people picnicked on the lawn.
It was an enchanting evening; just warm enough to be comfortable. The farm was beautiful in the dwindling daylight. We got to spend the evening with dear friends we hadn't seen in more than two years.
The kids had a blast running up and down the rows of sunflowers,
dancing to music so old it's new again,
and raiding the berry bushes for the remnants of the raspberries.
I have always LOVED raspberries. I think heaven will be filled with delights we can't begin to imagine, but I think raspberries will be on the menu too.
One of the things that puts them in my 'semi-precious berry' category is the effort it takes to collect them. They're small and delicate, requiring a gentle touch when plucking from the vine.
And then there's the thorns. They're kind of tiny too, when compared, say to rose thorns. But dang, those things are plentiful and pokey. I think the berries are all the more prized as a reward for the wounds suffered in the quest. The quantity collected is often in direct proportion to the tolerance of scratching.
So imagine my delight when I discovered these particular berry fields contained thornless raspberries! Who knew?! It made it easier to set my kids loose knowing I wasn't going to deplete my bandaid stash patching them up. Even so, I still tended to approach the bushes gingerly; as though there were sneaky thorns hiding, just waiting for their chance to snag me.
Sometimes I approach people like I did those bushes. It isn't pleasant to encounter prickly people (I know I am guilty of being that way too). Once wounded, it's natural to avoid a repeat, even with the promise of something delectable. So even if the pokey parts aren't visible, I keep my distance, gingerly moving around to prevent getting snagged.
Even when the thorns stick right out where they can be seen, they may be protecting something sweet and precious. Like a young raspberry start, people aren't born with thorns. They develop over time--often to guard the tender fruit that would otherwise be subject to pests and predators. By offering genuine care and friendship, it's possible to transform the prickly person into one that offers all the sweetness without the hazards.
I want to make the effort to see the unique gift of each person; to risk a poke here and there when I can see thorns and harvesting wholeheartedly when offered the fruit of true friendship.
This is one of the simplest desserts ever, but it's ohhh so yummy! (And relatively healthy even!) It's the perfect thing for these last lazy days of summer when the fruit is at its finest and you want something that highlights their sweet deliciousness without a lot of fussing or pretense.
10 to 12 slices fine textured white bread
2 quarts (8 cups) mixed fresh fruit (or thawed frozen fruit)
2 cups sugar (approx. 1/4 cup for each cup of fruit)
Rinse fruit under cold water, remove any stems or unripe fruit and drain well. Over low heat, mix fruit and sugar, stirring gently until sugar is dissolved and juice is formed. Set aside to cool.
Remove crusts from bread slices. Trim one piece into circle to fit bottom of 2-quart deep bowl or charlotte or pudding mold. Fit other slices of bread around sides of bowl, not overlapping, but not leaving any gaps.
When fruit has cooled, spoon a little of the juice over bottom of mold. Carefully fill the mold with the fruit, and pour the rest of the juice into the mold.
Cover top of fruit with remaining slices of bread cut to fit the bowl. Fit a flat plate or saucer inside top edge of mold, resting on the pudding. Place a heavy can or weight on top. Refrigerate overnight.
To unmold, carefully run a thin knife around the inside of the mold, and turn onto a serving plate. Slice and serve with lots of fresh whipped cream and more berries/fruit.