That Which Was Lost Has Now Been Found
Aside from my children, who naturally have the closest hold on my heart, the only things that I really get emotional about are food and music. I have told the story here before of my Bach-induced near nervous breakdown, so I won't go into that again, but I will say that almost everyone who knows me thinks of me as almost unnaturally calm. If, however, I'm asked to sing something (in public anyway) and there are differences of opinion as to interpretation, then look out: instant diva.
Anyway, before I get into the most recent instance of food-induced euphoria, let me briefly mention some music-induced euphoria. Last night, V. and I went to see A Prairie Home Companion, and I cannot put into words how much I loved it. I didn't care so much for the story framing devices (i.e., the very beginning and end), but everything that happened at the theater that was the heart of the movie was marvelous, and nothing was more marvelous than watching Meryl Streep sing. But I won't say any more because I'm afraid that someone will go see it and tell me that they didn't like it, and then I'll have to pretend that that person's opinion is perfectly valid while inside I'm judging that person the same way I judge anyone who doesn't like Jane Austen, though if you're under 30, I'm sometimes willing to think that you'll just grow into liking Jane Austen when you've lived a little more or else you'll die alone and bitter because there is no music or subtlety in your soul if, indeed, you even have one.
Anyway. I've had a couple of recent instances of food-based rapture, and they both involved fruit. Not long ago, after having convinced myself that my favorite blackberry patches had fallen to road construction, I took a different turn and realized that they were still there, and I smiled all the way home. The patches are somewhat attenuated, perhaps, but they're still there, and they should start having ripe berries in a week or perhaps less. I may go over and check them out on Tuesday, since it's a holiday.
You all know how found I am of quoting the Bible (oh shut up), so I'm going to let my buddy Luke explain to you what finding the blackberry patches is like:
And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
My buddy Luke may have been a bit sexist, but you get the idea. As it happens, the blackberries are old news (I re-found them a month ago, perhaps even earlier), but today's food-based joy was something very similar. Early this afternoon, I received an e-mail from my friend T.:
Tart cherries are in season at a farm in HoCo. I called, and they said picking is good. You can find directions at pickyourown.com. I just heard about them from a cute boy online, and I'm going to pick some now. I thought you'd want to know.
I'm pretty sure that I hadn't mentioned to T. (or anyone else) that I spent over an hour a week ago moping after I called my usual pick-your-own orchard to hear on their recording that the tart cherry season was over for the year. But T. and I have discussed our favorite pies, and cherry is near the top of the list for each of us (Don't worry: the way you rank pies, or your personal pierarchy, really is a matter of individual taste, so if you prefer, say, blueberry pie to cherry pie, I won't expect you to die bitter and alone. Probably), so it was perhaps reasonable (though still uncommonly nice) for him to think of me, and I'm glad that he did.
What's probably not reasonable is how very, very happy hearing about the cherries made me. After all, it's not like the cherry orchard had ever been lost: I'd simply missed the very brief season. But from the moment I got the email until the moment three hours later when I returned home with a bag full of eight pounds of perfectly ripe sour cherries, my smile reached all the way to my ears. Certainly that is the most fun it's possible to have for thirty-two dollars. (The cherries themselves were only sixteen dollars, but I also bought a deluxe cherry pitter, which, I am delighted and somewhat surprised to say, works very well indeed.)
Naturally I have big plans for my cherries, but when I got home, I only had a small amount of time before we were due to head out for the evening. So I decided to go with something simple. I am afraid that you may not be able to make it because even if you have tart cherries, you probably don't have any clementine ratafia on hand. But, really: whose fault is that? I've praised clementine ratafia on this page until I was blue in the face, and it's incredibly easy to make, and it's a wonderful gift, and it keeps for a long time in the pantry, so your steadfast refusal to make a batch or batches really puzzles me, I must say. I thought better of you. (Sorry: channeling my mom there for a moment.) I don't really know what to do if you don't have the ratafia to provide the gentle spiciness and complexity of flavor, but I think that some Cointreau and a pinch of ground cardamom would be awfully good.
Tart Cherry Compote
One cup tart cherries
2 T. granulated sugar
1 T. amaretto
2 T. clementine ratafia
Rinse the cherries very well. Drain them equally well, and remove the pits. Place the cherries in a nonreactive bowl with the sugar and the amaretto, stir, and let macerate for half an hour. Add the ratafia, stir again, and let sit for another five minutes. Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon and reserve. Place the liqueurs, juices, and sugar in the microwave for thirty to forty-five seconds, or until the sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate briefly until the syrup is room temperature or slightly warmer.
Divide the cherries into two serving dishes. Pour the syrup over the cherries and serve.
The syrup, on its own, may be a touch too sweet for some tastes, though I found it delicious. It is even better when you take a spoonful of the syrup with one or two cherries: you will taste bursts of tartness within the sweetness. Absolutely delicious.
As I often do, I used Whey Low instead of ordinary granulated sugar in this recipe. As I often say, I don't think there is any difference in taste.