Blueberry Preserves. Mmmmmm.
Twisting off the lid and peering inside, I see a mountain of small, soft blueberries—all lumpy and luscious in their blueberry goo—begging to be spread on a crunchy slice of sourdough toast. What could I do with my resultant weakness but succumb to their beck and call?
Almost immediately, my mind pulls a memory from a distant synapse in my mind that was initially formed in my childhood. Of Maine. And camping. Of me no more than four years old.
My family and I were tent camping at Baxter State Park at a very rustic and wild campground where all manner of critters outnumbered humans. On a particular morning, I had to stay at the campsite while most of my family hiked up the side of a mountain via a trail across the road in search of a particular ingredient for the morning’s breakfast. I’ve no recollection of who stayed back with me. I only know I didn’t go on an adventure where black bears were known to roam in search of the same treasure my family was… blueberries.
I knew the bears existed because Dad made sure we scanned the mountainside for them every inch of the serpentine drive up and down the mountain to the campground. We sure didn’t want to accidentally hit a bear while driving, so we each claimed a section of our station wagon’s window and with nose to glass, stayed on alert for shadowy black figures among the shadowy trees of the mountain.
I knew the bears existed because the whole time we canoed around the eerie black water lake next to our campsite, family members swore they saw one of the (elusive-to-me) black creatures. I feverishly scanned the lake edges, thick with trees, in search of them and though I never saw one, I never doubted they were among us. Signs with pictures of them warned of their presence in the area. Forest rangers warned of them. Souvenir shops well outside of the campground glorified them.
So when my family disappeared up the trail, my mind imagined all manner of encounters they might have with the black bears, all the things that could go wrong. I also wondered whether the bears might encounter me, mostly by myself at the campsite, far away from most of my family. That’s a lot for a quite young child to consider for a long stretch of time. Equally as critical, I wondered when I would finally get to eat a promised breakfast of blueberry pancakes. (Please don’t judge me, dear reader. A rumbling tummy instructs a child’s mind of what will be the day’s top priorities.)
Several anxious hours later, my family did return safely from their hike. And we did indeed have a spectacularly divine breakfast of blueberry pancakes topped with maple syrup and blueberries, finished off with still more blueberries.
The joy and relief I felt upon seeing my family returning safely to the campsite, the visual spectacle of a bounty of plump blueberries spilled from t-shirts and impromptu containers and piled high onto the table, the aroma of blueberries and butter and pancake batter all cooking in a pan on our Coleman stove, and the taste of warmed blueberries and maple syrup sliding over my taste buds that morning all combined to record a memory that was released and revealed to me today when I least expected it, when I inadvertently opened a can of preserves that led to a happy memory preserved in my mind, a memory from the history of me.
These preserves I’ve piled on my sourdough toast this morning are equally as divine as those gorgeous cooked blueberries that morning at Baxter State Park. Though these are chilled, the memories they’ve summoned are warm.
Crunch… mmmmm… crunch, crunch… mmmmm… crunch, crunch, crunch… mmmmm… blueberries.
Oh, no! Gone already? Damn, that was good!
But do I dare? Right before a workout at the gym?
Oh, yeah, I dare. One sinfully delicious slice of blueberry preserve-laden toast deserves another!
Go ahead. Treat yourself to one of those food items you remember from your childhood. And yes, you can have seconds too!
And while you’re at it, care to share any childhood food memories here with me (in the comments) that automatically make you smile? I’d love to hear about it!
Until next time…
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