September 12, 2012

Remembering the taste

August 7 - September 12, 2012
Watching Ada eat fruit (she'll choose it over candy) reminds me of the way I experienced food as a child. Some of my strongest memories are of gathering or eating fruit. Sticky peach juice, drippy melons, hard tart apples. But blueberries I remember best of all.

Age 6 or 7, or younger. I am sitting in the metal boat crossing the lake to get to the wild patch. It smells like hot metal from the boat's sides and I can smell the clean lake water, too. My dad is wearing his tan shorts and his hand is on the throttle as he watches the shore. The boat scrapes across the gravel. We all climb across the hot, dry lichen-covered rocks and plunge through the scratchy grasses. They're as high as my waist. The crickets are deafening. We collect the tiny berries in old Ontario cardboard fruit baskets. Their bottoms are mottled blue. The taste of the berries is incredible.

At my neighbour's farm, a young teenager, I discover wild patches of berries. I eat them methodically, working my way vine by vine. The little bulbs are so fat, less tidy than raspberries. I ruminate whether I should call them black raspberries or if I should call them blackberries.

My mother grows berries behind the house I was born in. A rectangle of raspberries and strawberries under a tree. Her garden is vast, everything from beets to pumpkins to watermelons, and I am so small. Smaller by far than the big compost pit by the rock. The throats of the snapdragons are as tall as I.

There are small pale apples in front of the farmhouse. They're tart and hard, just moist, not like the crumbly red apples in the orchard. I'm the only one who likes them. The cores brown quickly on the ground where I drop them. Delicious is the soft green skin. I lose the taste for them as I get older.

A few days ago, about to set out on the Rideau Trail, I hold up a pear to my son's mouth. He is 5 months old. It is his first food. In hindsight, it was stupid to let him taste it before hiking off into a forest. He might be allergic to pears as I used to be. He stares at the pear, lips wet. I hold it up to his mouth again.

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