Blueberry season is here! My favourite time of year. Partly because wild blueberries are so delicious. But mostly because it reminds me of childhood summers spent foraging in the bushes of Northern Ontario, filling up blueberry baskets and delighting in Grandma’s homemade pies. As a nod to the season, here’s a little tribute to my Grandma, written back on April 28th of this year.
Today I’m making a blueberry pie. I want to follow the recipe to a tee. I will use real butter. It won’t be gluten free. And I am not going to substitute stevia for sugar. Except for the store-bought berries I’ll have to use instead of the wild—and infinitely more delicious—ones we used to pick ourselves, I want this pie to be just like the ones she used to make.
Making pies isn’t really in my repetoir. I don’t like baking, and I don’t really like sweets. These days I’m all about gogi berries, whole grains, leafy greens and freshly pressed veggie juices. But today, I can’t think of anything more nourishing than a blueberry pie.
My grandma died ten years ago today. The leukemia swept in so suddenly. Just months after a gregarious family celebration marking her 70th birthday, she was gone. It was the first time I had experienced real loss. The first time I had ever felt my body collapse with the searing pain of a broken heart.
Now, all these years later, my heart knows only gratitude and flutters not from sadness but from all of the memories that dance around in there. Some are the kind of memories you would expect; her hearty laugh, her big bear hugs, our inside jokes, her blueberry pie. Others, like watching the 11 O’clock national news are the more subtle memories that remind me how magnetizing her presence was. I’d stay up to watch the news, just so I could sit beside her for a little bit longer.
She had this amazing gift of making you feel special—like you and her had this thing, this connection, like you were different than the others. As one among 17 cousins, it was fun to feel special. Maybe because I was one of the first grandchildren, I thought, that’s why we have this special bond. Turns out everyone had a special bond with Grandma. We were all secretly thinking the same thing.
My grandparents lived on a lake, up in Northern Ontario. Summer days spent there were full of boat rides, picnics, feeding the squirrels and roasting marshmallows. In August we’d paddle boat the short way to the other side of the lake and search for wild blueberries. I got bored quickly, but Grandma could pick blueberries all day. We’d paddle home, a few berry pints heavier, and enjoy the fruits of our labour—literally!—for dessert. Her blueberry pies always turned out perfectly. The crust was flaky, the filling was rich and smooth, and never too runny.
I am a passionate advocate of healthy living and I believe in the healing power of food. Usually that’s whole, real, unprocessed, straight-from-the-ground food. But today I’ll savour the taste of the sweetened blueberries. I’ll relish in the flaky crust, adorned with brown sugar sprinkles. I’ll have seconds. I’ll let the pie, all the memories it evokes, all the love it oozes, be what nourishes me today.
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