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HOLLENBECK: Blueberries: When did they enter my life?

July 12, 2011

The other night I was enjoying a dish of peach cobbler that was sprinkled with some fresh blueberries. In the midst of this delightful summer dessert, it suddenly hit me that blueberries are relatively new in my life.
Blueberries now are a favorite fruit at our house, yet there’s irony there. As a kid, I don’t ever remember eating them.
Fruits — fresh and canned — were always part of our diet. Regardless of the season.
My mother saw to it that we ate healthy foods, which, of course, meant the inclusion of fruit.
She didn’t have to resort to her powers of persuasion — which could be mighty and sometimes painful — to encourage me to eat them because I always loved fruits. Still do.
If the fresh fruits weren’t available, we ate the canned varieties and eventually the frozen ones.
For me, that meant pineapple. Always and ever. My favorite fruit as a child, it remains high on my list today.
But blueberries? Can’t think of a time when they were on my plate as a kid.
There were apples, oranges, tangerines, nectarines, grapes and seasonal delights like fresh peaches.
I remember making trips to the peach orchard at McCrory when the fruit was ripe for the picking. Never have peaches tasted better than the ones we got there.
Other seasonal fruits that were happy spots in childhood were the fresh cantaloupes and watermelons that we enjoyed during the summer months.
Nothing before or since has anything tasted better than watermelon that came from Mr. Lonnie Crafford’s ice plant in Cotton Plant.
I don’t know why these were better than the melons you could buy in the grocery store, but they were. A watermelon we got at the ice plant was colder, for one thing, which probably enhanced the flavor. And maybe part of the enjoyment was riding with family and friends to the ice plant to pick out the melon.
Maybe I’m remembering this from a child’s rose-colored view, but the quality of the melons seemed to be higher in general than the grocery-store variety. I don’t remember us ever getting a bad one.
The choice of melon depended on its passing the “thump test.”
I never understood that, but it apparently was important. We always got good ones.
The first time I recall blueberries coming into my life came about through blueberry muffins, made from mixes created by the likes of Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines.
And I don’t remember what stage of life this occurred.
The only time I even spoke the word blueberries in earlier years was when I would sing “A Wonderful Guy” from “South Pacific.” It includes the line “as normal as blueberry pie.”
One day I thought about that and realized I’d never eaten such, nor had I ever seen such. It certainly wasn’t part of “normal” for me.
Maybe blueberry pie was more of a regional dessert and the South just hadn’t welcomed the blue-colored berries yet.
I remember blackberries when I was younger, but didn’t like them, and there were raspberries, but they weren’t popular either.
But now blueberries are a regular part of our lives and we enjoy them all year long, thanks to the stores that bring in such treats from other parts of the world.
It really is a small world after all.

Lynda Hollenbeck is associate editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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