KATE: I kept busy by making blueberry jam from the wonderful Blue Chair Jam Cookbook recipe, which adds a splash of balsamic vinegar and a cinnamon stick, and I'm happy to say that together they add a warm and complicated depth to the blueberries.
Here's a question. Did I use native berries foraged from a secret local blueberry patch, or trek down to the Pine Barrens to find an organic blueberry farmer and ransack his farm? I did not. Instead, I noticed with great delight when I opened the Shoprite circular last Friday that it was the one special week of the year when flats of commercial blueberries are on sale for an insanely cheap price. Reader, I bought them. Two, in fact. They may have been from New Jersey, but probably not. They were definitely produced using pesticides. And this is nothing to be ashamed of.
Sometimes I'm afraid I've gone so far down the garden path (har har) that I'm losing sight of why people started putting up food in the first place. Thrift is a virtue, as is eating ethically and re-learning skills like canning and gardening that are at risk of dying out when our grandparents are gone. Foraging at the supermarket is not the same as filling a basket with berries at the state park like I did as a child, but it's also not reprehensible. Sure, I'm voting for those commercial blueberries with a few of my food dollars, but I'm also saving money and storing my family's food for the winter. I keep telling myself that Shoprite is not the enemy. It's just not first on my list of food sources.
MARK: For most people, the grocery store is the first place to look for food, and a parking lot in an office park would probably be toward the bottom of the list. While the asphalt jungle may not be a primary source of food for us, I always have my eyes open--probably because it's impossible for me to get out of gardening mode--and sometimes I'm rewarded.
I like to briefly escape my corporate crypt once or twice a day just to remind myself the outside world still exists. Despite its location within spitting distance of Route 80 and the sisyphean efforts of the landscapers, some natural life persists. I like to keep tabs on the stupid little bird that built her "nest" (it's like 3 sticks) on one of the rocky medians smack in the middle of the parking lot. She yells at me as I approach, squawking to distract me from the tiny egg she guards. Occasionally, her mate will arrive and play wounded in an act of selfless subterfuge, so I'll give a half-hearted chase to boost his ego.
One of the best features of the unremarkable lot is the stand of trees at the edge. Unseen creatures can be heard busying themselves in the underbrush, even over the din of the highway. On one occasion, a bear was cavorting amongst the cars and the super-not-helpful police cruiser that showed up. Anyway, the understory of this little woodland morsel is peppered with wild raspberries, called wineberries by some. I've always assumed that the berries get devoured by animals or coworkers as soon as they ripen, since I've never noticed any good ones in years past. Today I was lucky enough to grab handfuls of ripe fruit as I passed during my constitutional, the canes prolific on either side of the ironically placed dumpster. This bounty in a bleak landscape left me incredulous, but such is the tenacity of nature and the awesomeness of summer.