Thursday, August 29, 2019

But the Jam is Glorious!

For one reason or another I’ve skipped or missed local raspberry season for the last few years. Which is a shame as local raspberries are as different from those available all year long from the global berry market as local vine-ripened tomatoes are from their cardboard counterfeits sold all winter

Image result for vine ripe local tomatoes v. imported winter tomatoes

Image result for vine ripe local tomatoes v. imported winter tomatoes

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The “fall” crop of berries started coming in last week and I decided this was the year to replenish my friends and family’s supply of delicious homemade raspberry jam. Calls and visits to berry farms far and wide revealed that they were selling only U-Pick-Em berries. There was a time when I may have entertained such a  notion, but it is not now.

So I ventured into the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor yesterday which is a mere 15 minute drive but still seems oddly foreign. This is the city that has held a pro-PLO demonstration outside the Jewish synagogue closest to the University of Michigan campus for as long as I can remember - seriously, at least 20 years. It is a town filled with students being indoctrinated with the received wisdom of their academic betters and in which they both believe they are better, smarter and more deserving than mere mortals. The political correctness and virtue signaling alone places them on a higher plane.

Upon arriving at the market I waited the obligatory time (10 minutes is not unreasonable) to get a sub-standard sized parking spot as in Ann Arbor lots are striped for the size car they want you to drive not the kind you actually own. I quickly descend on the market, side-stepping the phalanx of petitioners all trying to save the planet from something, and scoped out the market. I discovered the fruit cartel had agreed upon the size containers raspberries can be sold in this year - half pints – and the price, $3. That’s $12 a quart if you can never remember how many pints per quart, and a scant quart at that as the tiny containers cannot be overfilled. That might result in excess which we don’t tolerate. In case you’re curious, this is twice the cost of picking them yourself. I needed 4 quarts so after you throw in the price of sugar and gasoline the jam is not exactly a bargain. And that’s before factoring the value of my time which, granted, isn’t much these days.

After scoring the berries I stopped at The Paper Store in Kerrytown to purchase a birthday card for a friend. The bearded clerk, busily doing some, uh, paper work at the counter couldn’t even be bothered to greet me with the perfunctory “hello.” I apparently interrupted some sort of early morning revelry on his part. I did at least get a “thank you” so I know I was not mistaken and I had made the purchase in person, not online.

Next I walked to the world famous Zingerman’s. It was once world famous for carrying delicacies not available anywhere else but since Amazon came on scene it’s now mostly world famous for being over-hyped and over-priced. But they do make the best bread anywhere. And if you are planning to make a Panzenella salad this summer – and you should

Image result for classic panzanella panzanellaTomatoes, cucumber, red onion slivers, basil, olive oil and vinegar of your choice, I like a good balsamic, that’s all.

– the time is now and the bread to do it with is Zing’s Paesano.

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Paesano: this chewy crusted, airy yet dense bread is worth sacrificing all your principles for. And at $9 a loaf that may not be all you have to sacrifice.

I also stopped at the deli-counter to inquire after Lucques, a delicious olive that hasn’t popped up on olive bars lately for some reason. They are not currently available, I’m told, due to “a supply line problem.” I’m advised by an earnest young man that this is due to the unusual weather in France this year. He concludes with a rather resigned observation that global warming may well mean the end of Lucques as we know them.


I sincerely doubt it but say thank you and move along to the bread line like a good citizen of the People’s Republic.

I’m now headed back to my car by way of Kerrytown where a courtyard cuts through a cluster of shops and restaurants before emerging in the farmers market and parking lot. It’s littered with people speaking of important issues while enjoying a morning coffee and pastry, oblivious as always to the plight of others in their orbit. I have to say excuse myself several times as I tiptoe around and through their joyous morning chattering held in the middle of the sidewalk. Just as I’m about to emerge and hop into the sanctuary of my car I am accosted by two signs on the plate glass windows of The Lunch Room, a vegan restaurant: one says “ABOLISH ICE’  and the other “SUPPORT RASHIDA.”

And that my friends is why I no longer look forward to my forays into A2 despite many, many fine memories. And it’s why I no longer consider moving there despite it’s inclusions on many “best places to retire”  lists. I would end up dead before my time or more likely, incarcerated.

But the jam is glorious!

Image result for homemade raspberry jam