Most people think the strawberry the pinnacle of fruit, an epicurean delight.
I’m not that crazy about them myself.
Oh, I enjoy them dipped in chocolate or even just lightly sugared. I confess to adoring them topping a shortcake, too, especially if smothered in whipped cream and vanilla ice cream – but that has more to do with the additional toppings than the strawberries. But when others swoon over a strawberry pie, I just shrug.
If I were to pick a favorite berry, it would probably be the black raspberry. Or possibly the blackberry. Or a red raspberry. Or a blueberry. Or a boysenberry. Or…well, you get the point.
Obviously, with the exception of strawberries, berries are high on my list of favored fruit. That is probably a little odd, because when I was growing up, berries were barely regarded as a viable fare, and certainly not a staple. The cooks of my childhood used berries for pies and cobblers, but rarely for anything else. Fruit in the households of my childhood consisted of apples and bananas, peaches or nectarines and oranges, perhaps some grapefruit or tangerines. Pineapple was seen only on an upside down cake, and cherries were mostly baked into pies. Cranberries appeared on the table only at the holidays, and then in the form of disgusting canned, jelled sauce. Kiwi or star fruit were unknown, and I really can’t recall papaya or mango being in the grocery bins, either.
Perhaps I came to enjoy berries because, when I was 10, my parents moved to a house in a neighborhood still under construction. Our new home, one of only three houses on that street, was surrounded by empty fields, full of milkweed and wild onion, but most of all growing wild with blackberry bramble. I quickly discovered the berries. I began going out the back door in the early mornings, clad only in my nightgown, to pick fresh berries from the bush at the end of our yard and add them to my bowl of cereal. I was devastated when the builders arrived to clear the brush from the surrounding fields and begin building houses.
A few years ago, when I stumbled across the first few articles illustrating the amazing health benefits of berries, it was like discovering those fields of blackberry bramble all over again. My childhood love affair with berries was validated at last. Not only were they the most delicious of all fruit, but they were good for you. It was exactly like hearing the first announcements that dark chocolate was good for you. Delicious and good for you, full of polysyllabic nutrients that do wonderful things for the human body. What more could one ask?
“Doubtless God could have made a better berry,” Dr. Butler famously said of the strawberry, “but doubtless God never did.”
Well, I may not have doctor as an honorific before my name, but I beg to differ. Give me a black raspberry any day.