I grew up in a fruit bowl.
One of the Great Lakes — Lake Michigan, in particular — buffers the climate in southwest Michigan through a scientifically proven meteorological phenomenon called the “lake effect,” which essentially means that a ton of snow is dumped onto the region, making it the most wonderful place in the entire universe to grow fruit.
Is that a fruity comment? I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but who can figure? One minute you’re looking up in the sky and then, womp, the next you’re covered in 16 feet of snow and somehow the peach trees are happy.
So happy, in fact, that when the fruit awakens from its long winter nap it comes in waves — great cascading, sumptuous waves.
So sublime, so tantalizing, so perfect that it consumes your every waking moment. First come strawberries – with jam, rhubarb pie, shortcakes — then raspberries and blackberries – tarts, sauces and jellies — followed by cherries — fat, succulent and downright naughty with all that pit-spitting-out-the-window.
Then peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, pears, apples, grapes, cantaloupes (or as we called them – muskmelons) and watermelons that you can just split open on a rock and scoop out with your fingers, all in such abundance it takes your breath away.
Gorging was the name of the game, and you’d gorge until you couldn’t stand to see another strawberry, cherry, grape or raspberry until the next year, which just happened to be when they’d come back.
I know it’s not the wisest way to choose a career. In fact, if a young person were to sit down and tell me he or she was choosing a career path based on how much he or she “liked how it tasted,” I’d have to tell him or her that was crazy talk. Still and all, no one said that to me.
No one said, “You’ll have to take all the same intro science classes as pre-med students, you fool. Why don’t you do something important like become a nurse or a doctor?”
The truth is — and I’m not sure if people ever get around to telling the beautiful, smart and infinitely giving people who decide to become doctors and nurses this or not — that sick people are kind of icky. They’re always sniffling, slobbering, drooling and oozing stuff.
And I figure if something is going to be oozing, it should at least taste sweet.
The universe, all the angels and such, seems to conspire to help out first loves. So no one had a problem with me studying fruit and vegetables.
In fact, people gave me a ton of money to do so, which seems quite astonishing and relatively foolish, but which enabled me to hang out in orchards and vineyards picking and eating fruit.
For a time I did think I was ultra cool doing so, because I spent time in the science library, studied pigments and knew words like anthocyanin and lycopene, but now, everyone banters around those words.
It’s funny how you don’t know what you have when you have it. I didn’t realize that people would put a premium on all that stuff and that the quart of what they now call “farm-fresh, organic raspberries” I practically gave away for 50 cents a quart when it would sell for $3.99 for a half pint now.
I just knew it was good. In my favorite job of all time, I got to sell it and teach people what to do with it.
Now, that’s not as risqué as it sounds. Not like the co-worker I once had (long before the term sexual harassment was in use) who insisted that the only way to eat mangoes was naked.
I’m embarrassed to say how much I was paid, something like $4.25 an hour, but I probably would have done the job for free. I remember sitting on top of a high hill overlooking a river.
The Connecticut orchard I was in was changing color and all the trees were a rich assortment of reds, burnt oranges and sienna.
I was surrounded by apples, my favorites — Macouns, Empires and Northern Spys — and spices to mull wine and cider.
I thought maybe I had died and gone to heaven.
I would get in trouble for eating too much fruit. No, not from parents, employers or teachers, they understood.
Not even in the way you think, although eating a lot of fruit and vegetables does make for some interesting bathroom adventures.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez even talks about one in the intro to his book, “Love in the Time of Cholera.”
No, I got in trouble with doctors. When looking at my pregnancy weight gain, doctors would say, “What are you eating?”
“How many a day?”
As if 15 apples a day is too many. It didn’t get me into as much trouble, though, as the two watermelons a week I ate while pregnant with my second child.
But putting me on a no-watermelon diet in August in the south hardly seemed fair.
Nor have I liked the fact that my family has absolutely forbid me to write a bawdy romance novel about fruit. I could, though, and it’d be good.
These are the same people, I know, who are going to stand up at my funeral and tell everyone, “She used to carry cantaloupes in her purse. And onions, too.”
Well, I learned the hard way that tomatoes don’t fit in purses. They can’t get along with cell phones.
So anyway, I’ve long wondered how I could work fruit into my writing. And, along came the idea of starting a food co-op here in Kitsap County that will be a venue for all the locally grown, fresh produce.
It will be a place for people to really connect with their food and the growers in ways that I remember doing as a child.
The founder, Laura Moynihan, is a former teacher with deeply held beliefs on the power good food has to heal.
This past weekend, she and our fellow South Kitsap resident and biointensive garden promoter, Janice Johnson, helped organize a huge rummage sale, which was great for me, because I got to donate a ton of stuff I needed to give away.
I had avoided signing up to help on a committee, because over the years I learned that when you do that, they want you to work.
And truth be told, I typically go to meetings for the fruit. However, this is a great cause and loads of fun.
The next Kitsap Food Co-op planning meeting is to be held on my birthday, Sept. 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Cloverleaf Tavern in Bremerton, followed by a Fall Fair on Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rodstol Lane Farm in Southworth.
If you’re interested in more information, (there must be more fruit lovers out there) check out their Web site, www.kitsapfoodcoop.org, or e-mail Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (360) 813-1301.
Mary Colborn is a
Port Orchard resident.