It was a really hot day, as humid and sticky as they come around here. And I had been visiting with family all afternoon, celebrating Father’s Day. I had lunched on the deck with my dad, looking out over his garden; I had laughed with my step-dad as he opened my card about farts (why can’t I resist?); and I had taken a tour of the orchard with my grandpa on his golf cart.
I was ready to go home.
But at some point during the day, my step-dad had revealed a secret patch of wild black raspberries tucked away in the margins of the woods. And when he pulled off a handful and gave them to me to try, I just knew I had to pick at least enough for a pie. It was my favorite, after all.
It would be worth it.
So after the long day of visiting, and the promise from my mom that she would help me pick, we dressed in long pants and sleeves, despite the mocking thermometer that had pushed past 90, grabbed a couple of buckets, and headed for the brambles. I had really hoped to be heading home by then, but those berries. That pie.
It would be worth it.
We drove back to the edge of the patch, finding a little bit of shade to park in. As soon as we pushed into the thick underbrush, we realized it was nearing the end of the picking season. The berries were sparser than we had hoped, and smaller. What I thought would be a 20-minute job for the two of us would now be double that. I glanced at the time, thought about my dog who had been home all day by herself, and decided to start picking anyway.
It wasn’t going to be easy to come up with enough berries for a pie, but surely it would be worth it. Right?
Ten minutes into the task, I commented how cool it felt in the thicket, compared to directly out in the sun. My mom agreed. We each had picked about 1/2 a cup.
“This will be worth it,” I said out loud, presumably to my mom. She didn’t answer.
Ten minutes later, we had about 2 cups between us, and I felt the sweat start to run down the middle of my back.
“Let’s just stop; I don’t know if this is worth it,” I said. My mom encouraged me to just pick a little while longer. We had nearly enough.
Ten minutes later, we had made our way far enough back into the patch where it hadn’t been picked over as much. Now, we were making progress. I wiped the sweat from my forward with the end of my long sleeve, an old shirt from my uncle’s closet after he died.
“I remember picking raspberries when we lived in the A-frame house,” I told my mom, feeling a little more encouraged now that I could no longer see the bottom of the bucket. “I remember going there by myself.”
I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought about how much better it was to pick raspberries on a 90-degree day with someone else. Rather than alone.
“Thanks for helping me, Mom,” I said, wiping the sweat away again. “I know you didn’t really want to pick more berries.” She and my aunt, who had given her the shirt I was wearing, had already picked 2-3 gallons apiece in the week before.
“It’s ok, now that we’re out here,” she said. “Looks like you might have enough to freeze some.”
Forty-five minutes after we left the car, we looked in our buckets and realized that I had more than enough for a pie, which is all I really wanted. In fact, now I would have enough for two pies.
We made our way back, stopping to pick a few berries we had missed and speculating on how long the patch had been there.
We got in the car. I wiped my forehead with my sleeve one last time. And we went home.
I measure out the Crisco, stirring in flour, salt, sugar, baking powder. A little at a time I add “ice cold water,” stirring as little as possible. When the dough forms a ball, I take just a little more than half and begin patting it in my hands. The soft, buttery dough does whatever I ask of it. I lay it on a piece of waxed paper and slowly roll it this way, that way, back again, around. Within 30 seconds, it’s big enough to lay it in the small glass pie pan. I roll out the other half of the dough, leaving it on the counter.
I rinse three cups of black raspberries, then mix them with flour and sugar–just a little. I dump them into the pastry-lined pan, pouring a little water over them, then dotting them with four pieces of butter. Then, I wield my knife to the second crust, creating three smiles to vent the crust before laying it on top of those sugared, floured, buttered berries. Using my fingers, I pinch the two crusts together, then scallop the edges. Then, I dress the pan in a foil cape and slider her into the oven.
The pie bakes, the house smells like a memory, and a friend soon arrives to share a piece, a la mode. We taste; we mmmm. She compliments; I brag.
It was worth it.