If you are an Oregonian that doesn’t like blackberries, I’m sorry, but you can go right to hell.
There is nothing better than a blackberry picked in the height of summer, warm from the sun, ripe enough to fall off the vine into your hand and stain your fingers with purple juice. When I was a kid, I would hold a blackberry and pick off the drupelets one by one with my front teeth, like tiny grapes. Hot and sweet.
In Oregon, blackberries grow pretty much everywhere. They’re a hardy fruit (surprise, not technically a berry!) and they’ll grow in the worst soil you can imagine. Ditches, roadsides, backyards, dead people. They’ll grow out of anything, whether you want them to or not.
As summer proceeds into High Summer, I’ve started keeping an eye out for blackberries. There is a single vine growing out of a shrub in our apartment complex, largely ignored by my neighbors. Every time I pass by, I take a look. If there are any good ones, I pluck them off, examine them for bugs, and eat ’em. This is probably a Weird Thing To Do. That’s ok. I would do a lot of weird things for blackberries. You understand.
So on Friday night I got to my parent’s house, where Taylor is living for the summer. My folks are gone fishin’, so we had the house to ourselves. Mom and Dad have the benefit of a large, sprawling backyard, full of peach tree grafts and gopher holes, with a towering hill of blackberries in the corner, slowly usurping the unused chicken coop. As soon as I got there, I grabbed a plastic bowl from the kitchen and went outside to pick berries, leaning over the high brambles and doing what I could not to get snagged by the thorns. I had picked a tidy few when Taylor got home.
“Honey, I’m home!” he shouted from the deck. He sauntered down to meet me, resplendent in a new pair of Birkenstocks. He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me towards the house. I frowned at him.
“I’m very glad to see you,” I said, “but there are BLACKBERRIES out here.”
“Yes. We should pick some tomorrow.”
“We are picking them NOW,” I said, glaring violently.
I am very serious about blackberries. We stayed outside to pick for an extra ten minutes.
We chatted as we worked and ended up with a half bowl that we brought up to the deck. The sun was fading. It was warm and breezy. Taylor was showing me a massive e-mail thread from his coworkers that had started with a small joke and ballooned into something with a mind of its own. While he talked, I ate blackberries like a machine. Search for the best ones. Turn it over to check for bugs/irregularities. EAT. Search for the best ones. Turn it over to check for bugs/irregularities. EAT. Repeat forever.
“You should slow down on those,” Taylor cautioned. “Eat some dinner first.”
“I don’t want dinner,” I said, taking a gulp of Diet Coke. “I want BLACKBERRIES.”
“Blackberries are going to make you feel pretty sick soon if you keep eating them like that.”
“Never. Blackberries would never hurt me.”
With a deft swoop, Taylor reached over, snatched the bowl of blackberries out of my lap and placed it far out of reach. I gaped.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” I bellowed.
“You are going to eat some dinner before you eat more blackberries,” Taylor said. “I have some leftover Mexican food, you can have that. You need some protein.”
“Fine,” I said. “Okay. Let’s go in. Grab your computer.”
Taylor rose, yawning, and grabbed his own can of Diet Coke.
“Can you grab, uh…” he motioned lazily at the table.
“The blackberries? Sure.” I plucked them up casually.
Ha. HAHA. MWAHAHA.
We walked inside. I casually dipped a hand into the bowl.
“HEY,” Taylor said. “WAITAMINUTE.”
Cackling, I fled into the kitchen cramming my mouth full of blackberries. By the time Taylor got in, I had thrown the bowl on the table and was holding my hands up in an expression of innocence, purple smeared on my lips.
“What?” I said. “Seriously. Eat your own Mexican food. I’m not even hungry.”
So what’s your favorite summer food? Corn-on-the-cob? Strawberries? BBQ ribs? TALK TO ME PEOPLE.