Caleb and I are celebrating ten years of marriage this year. He was born and raised in suburban Las Vegas, which is a hair different than Oregon. But, since we focus on the things that we have in common and allow the differences to bring enrichment to our union, it seems to work pretty well. And I mean work. Marriage, like all things worth doing in life, takes work. Thankfully Caleb and I both had parents that instilled solid work ethics in us (before they divorced- LOL!)
Shortly after we were married there was a stunning revelation about Caleb: he doesn’t really like fruit. And could live without berries in particular. Wha- Wha – What???? Is it possible that I married someone whom fruit is barely a part of daily life? Someone who doesn’t get wide eyed and bushy tailed by a bowl of freshly rinsed blueberries peeping out at you in the morning sun? He would tell you that he likes apples. And that seems to be enough. I am aghast at the idea that one could settle for so little amongst such bounty. But, then I remember – Las Vegas.
Think what you will about Las Vegas, having lived and loved there, I can say that the lessons are many. Few places can boast of having such an effect on so many people. We really don’t need to get into the blatant details. We can set all that aside and think about Las Vegas from the perspective of a sweet child. And then the comparisons of growing up in Oregon vs. Las Vegas become interesting.
One friend said that when her family moved to Las Vegas, she “mourned the summer for her children”. Playing outside all day on a summer day in the dessert is markedly different than the mild Oregon summers I experienced as a youth. Caleb recalls the metal slides on the playgrounds of the 80’s as “torturous kind of fun”. Of course, kids still play outside in Las Vegas. But, the climate can’t possibly lend itself to the kind of outdoor time an Oregon kid can experience during summer break. In the end, he has an attachment to air conditioning, movies at matinee times and ice cold beverages.
Summers in Oregon were way different. I only recall one family on our block with air conditioning. Whenever we went into their home it felt other worldly. The hottest days of summer were always dark inside our house, as Mom would draw the shades early in the morning, keeping the night time cool air in. We didn’t witness this curtain pulling thing, because we had already boarded a bus even earlier on our way to pick strawberries in a local field. Yes, we were farm laborers for a decent stretch of our summer break. To be fair, it was for only about six weeks. But, my how those six weeks each summer shaped and formed us in ways we can only fully appreciate now that we are surrounded by piss poor millennial work ethics.
With a paper sack containing a sandwich, a fruit hand pie and a can of pop that had been placed in the freezer the night before; my sisters and I set out to make some serious school clothes cash (again, LOL). I started this task at a pretty tender age, so my hands were not the most bountiful of pickers. Sometimes I would toil all morning to yield only one flat of strawberries. But, the yield on work ethic and determination lessons were plentiful. With red, juice stained hands and dirty sneakers we would arrive home each day ready to embrace the heat of summer a la kid. Once we got cleaned up, we would join our friends at the community pool, knowing that on that day we gave our best in an Earthy sort of way. Contributors to the food chain of Oregon bounty.
After returning from my NYC experience I discovered that I had a special fondness for picking fruit. Wether on a bush, a tree or a vine, I think that I am at my most content with the sun on my back, fruit stains on my hands and a recipe in my mind on a pleasant Oregon summer day.
I can always think of a multitude of ways to use fresh picked, ripe fruit; if not just rinse and chew. Folding a summer berry into a cake and baking it in camp is a fine measure of your summer work ethic. Here is a great recipe I found to work well in a dutch oven. Credit to Danielle Walker Against all Grain.
I recommend pre-making the batter at home in your blender. Omitting a few key ingredients, of which you will tape instructions to the container for ease and then add them before you are ready to bake. Fold in any fresh fruit as the last step. We found some wild strawberries on the last camp trip and I’m looking forward to some apricots or blackberries soon. Play around. Or omit. Either way, this makes for a solid addition to your camp trip.