Monday, July 28, 2008

Mulberry season is over so now I can share this

A very long time ago in a place a few miles from here Aunt Nancy Luzi shared some knowledge with me that I've been mostly suppressing for lo these many years. But, now I've decided to come clean.

It was a pleasant early summer day, possibly a Memorial Day for Aunt Nancy, Uncle Pete, Camille, Johnny and Peter (this was before Laurie was born) usually came out to our parents house way out in the country a few times a summer. The Memorial Day picnic would have been a logical time for them to brave the long four mile trek from Norristown although it could have been any of the Sundays during mulberry season.

Ah, mulberry season, how can one pass on an appreciation of what that meant to kids back in the mid 1950's before sugar became the predominant source of calories in our diets. This was the era when something sweet was still a treat, the era when Sundays and especially holidays still had meaning for the good foods to be had on those days.

Anyway it was certainly mulberry season, for us kids had happily spent an hour or so gathering juicy ripe berries from the wild trees in our large quarter-acre yard and over in the trackless wastes of Harry Mandrachs enormous two acre back lot. Naturally we had eaten a lot of berries while we were picking, but each of us returned to the yard with a plastic cup or ricotta container more or less full of them. We were looking forward to eating the berries in the cups by handfuls, a whole different experience than eating them daintily one by one off the tree. But first, since we were within sight of the adults now, we rinsed them off with water generously laced with the refreshing taste of the polyvinyl chloride that leached from the hose.

But then Aunt Nancy, always a bit more fastidious than our parents, struck. And she struck hard. She pointed out that even after the berries were washed there were still little beige colored bugs darting back and forth from between the lobes of the berries.

The horror! Bugs! Exquisitely tiny bugs to be sure, but still, bugs on and in the berries, quite a generous number of bugs, at least several could be seen on each berry at any given time, and who knew how many others were hiding down in between the lobes. And they were there despite the fact that we had more or less avoided picking berries festooned with the white of bird droppings, and even after we had carefully washed the berries. God only knew how many of those little bugs were already swimming around in our stomachs. To eat the berries in the cups would only add more.

Well, suffice it to say, we couldn't eat the berries within sight of the adults after that. The more adventurous among us had to take those cups of berries all the way around the corner of the house to, uh, dispose of them by handfuls.

To this day I can't eat mulberries when I happen to pass under a loaded tree on my tractor without remembering that the bugs are there, even though it has been years since I've been able to see the tiny things without my drugstore glasses, one of the reasons I never wear those glasses when I'm out mowing or working in the woods in early summer.

I feel a lot better now that I've shared that with you. It was a lot easier to get that off my chest than it is to get mulberry juice stains out of a tee shirt when I forget to wear a maroon one.

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