I’m thinking a lot about blueberries these days.
I’m thinking about the ways that they have served as an emblem of my path to loving food — deeply, fully, and with gratitude — over the course of my daughter Sammi’s life. From the postpartum afternoon when my mother-in-law first came to my house with a bag of farmers market berries and showed me how they were more than the sour little fruits that ruined my muffins to the morning nine months later when I nibbled a blueberry in half and placed it tentatively in front of my 9 month old daughter, blueberries were a beacon I didn’t even recognized until I’d followed them out of the darkness and into the brightest, warmest sunshine.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes, right? Someone introduces us to something we never really considered before, and like in the corniest of cartoons, a door opens or a path becomes illuminated or a mysterious staircase appears and here we are, in a whole universe of things that were outside our peripheral vision the whole time. From blueberries, I was led to cooking greens. From cooking greens, I discovered the wide ranges of the brassica family from cabbage to broccoli (ok, I knew about broccoli before, but not how to really make it shine) to brussels sprouts. From brassicas, I moved on to the family of hard winter squashes, finding my way through all of them to learn that I loved kabocha but not delicata. Over the years I would come to embrace varieties of garlic and basil, oregano and heirloom tomato, purslane and foraged sage. From the dull vegetarian of frozen faux meats and pasta to the lover of frittata, stir-fry, and dozens of soups, I transformed myself as an eater and a cook.
All because of blueberries.
All because of Sammi, who took that first half-blueberry and pinched it between her fingers, watching the juice run over her thumb. Sammi, who stuffed it into her baby lips and smiled. Sammi, who would eat nothing else with enthusiasm for many years but would always, always eat blueberries. Sammi, whose blueberry addiction drove us to the farmers market week after week, unwittingly drew me forward into the world of food that comes right up out of the ground and into our lives without packaging or fanfare: audacious raspberries, plump and velvety peaches, dark plums with their tart skins and sweet juicy insides, blood-red cherries with pits I delight in spitting off my front porch. How did I live without them before? How grateful I am that I have them now!
Over the years of the strange medically-restricted diets Sammi had to follow, the blueberries led us safely past danger, along with all the other gifts they’d brought. Learning to cook with fruits and vegetables was only a matter of not interfering, it turns out, with what they naturally have to offer: texture, color, sweetness, acidity, musk, and flavor. By the time it was all over, I’d discovered that the same was true for children; my job was to try to guide along the aspects of their selves that came most naturally: light, darkness, sweetness, acidity, and flavor. Is it any wonder that I’m awed by both plants and children?
Imagine my delight when the publishers of my forthcoming book, Kitchen Medicine, sent me a series of options for the cover. First on their list was the one I chose. It could not be any other way.
If you want to stay updated on all things Kitchen Medicine, please sign up for my newsletter. Each time I share one, I’ll include a recipe. This month, in honor of this lovely new cover, I’ll share the blueberry muffin recipe I mention in the introduction to my book. It’s precious to me, and the best way to honor that is to share it. Stay tuned in the next week for that if you subscribe!