Before my parents went bust and fled the country for a warmer climate where they could practice their ballroom dancing---and avoid prosecution for tax evasion---we lived in luxury at Blackbird Farm, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There was always champagne on ice in case a party broke out. Romantic candles were kept on hand and hastily lit when friends dropped by—the better to hide peeling paint and cracks in the plaster. And Daddy always answered the door looking elegant in a moth-eaten dinner jacket that had belonged to his grandfather.
But when nobody was around to see, we practiced all manner of penny-pinching. In July, we cranked our own ice cream---peach was my favorite. In August, we sneaked into the stern farmer’s field across our country road to find a few ears of sweet corn for dinner. During these hot weeks of summer, though, I am most reminded of the steam that boiled out of pots on the kitchen stove where Mama canned vegetables from our weedy garden (it was too much work to pull the weeds) or boiled fruit for jam. But first Daddy took my sisters and me on “adventures” into the woods where we played pirates and picked berries---wild blackberries and currants and wild strawberries. Daddy sent my sister Emma---the smallest of the Blackbird Sisters—to creep under a fence to scavenge blueberries from bushes dutifully planted by our country mouse neighbors. She always came back with a full bucket, grinning with delight at her crime.
This summer I am trying my hand at making jam—keeping on the right side of the law, however. For some reason, though, it’s not as intensely sweet and flavorful at the jam my mother made. Maybe I need to wear her Gucci turban to keep the steam out of my hair. Or I should find the Revolutionary War-era wooden spoon she used to stir the hot concoction. Am I remembering my childhood as sweeter than the present? Or have I simply not found the right recipe for the foods that came off the farm where I grew up---and where I now make my home again?
What’s the recipe you remember most from your childhood? I think mine is currant jelly. No, wait—maybe Mama’s blackberry pie. Or the canned asparagus we used to make in the spring. I can’t decide. How about you?
Read Nora Blackbird’s latest adventure in LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF MURDER, the 9th Blackbird Sisters Mystery, by Nancy Martin, available in stores now. Read the first chapter here: http://www.nancymartinmysteries.com/little-black-book.html
Or take a tour of Nora Blackbird’s world on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/nanmart1/boards/