July 11, 2015

Blueberry Days

It’s blueberry season, and what I want is blueberry pie.
But what I’ve got time for is blueberries on a bowl of cold cereal. The solution to this dilemma, clearly, is to make Blueberry Thing. More on that in a minute. But first, a blueberry backstory...

A little over a year before our wedding, my groom-to-be said he wanted me to see a house he thought would make a good first home for us after we got married.

Now, by “see,” I mean “not see,” because Chad first took me by the house after dark when I could not, in fact, “see” anything. Even if he had taken me during the day, I would still not have been able to “see” the house, obscured as it was by a great deal of aggressive shrubbery. I suppose I should have been suspicious when he wanted me to “see” the house after dark.

I certainly should have been alarmed by his presentation of the house’s assets. “Well, it’s got two bedrooms,” Chad said. “And another nice thing about it is that…it’s got two bedrooms. Oh, and I really think you’ll like the…two bedrooms.” Okay, so the house had two bedrooms. What it also had was a mint-green exterior, filthy interior walls and carpeting, a shockingly purple master bedroom, and a bathroom so awful I can still hardly bear to think of it.

But Chad’s dad, a realtor who had not achieved professional success without being a very good salesman, assured us it would be “no problem” to fix the place up. So, I gave my okay to the purchase and promptly returned to Virginia for the next six months to finish out a job contract while the house was being redone.

As it turned out, what became the little yellow house did make a perfect first home for the two of us. It even made a perfect first home for the three of us when our first daughter was born. What it did not make was a perfect home for the three of us plus the third family member’s attendant “stuff.”

That we needed to relocate became readily apparent the day Chad walked in the door after work and rammed into Lydia’s playyard, which was set up directly inside the back door. “Isn’t there someplace better we can put this?” he asked, wincing in pain. “What would you like me to do with it?” I asked. “Suspend it from the ceiling?”

So we bought a bigger house.

This one was twice as large as our first home and needed twice as much work to make it livable. (“No problem,” Chad’s dad assured us.) Since we planned to keep the yellow house as a rental, we continued to live there while we worked on the "new" (red) house.

In the midst of this life-in-transition, Lydia and I returned to the yellow house one day to unload groceries. She was helping me, which is how a quart of blueberries ended up all over the kitchen floor. To contain the mess, I relocated my toddler to her bedroom and shut the door. Too bad I didn’t know she had a wayward blueberry embedded in the sole of her shoe, because while she was confined to her room, she was applying a blueberry-stamp faux-finish to her bedroom carpet.

I relocated her again, this time to her play yard (not suspended from the ceiling but rather parked in its same inconvenient spot) and began scrubbing her bedroom carpeting. Then I tried to start a load of blueberry-stained laundry. Then the washing machine wouldn’t work. Then I cried. Then I called my mom, who said what good mothers have been saying for centuries: “I’ll be right over.”

A few days after Blueberry Day, my mom and I were working at the "new" (by which I mean “not new”) red house to clean the upstairs carpets. The carpeting downstairs was so frighteningly dirty that no one dared walk on it without first putting on industrial work boots, but the upstairs carpet required only sandals or perhaps a casual loafer to be safely trod upon; thus, we were cleaning it with the wet/dry vac and a vast length of hose.

I’d spent the morning sucking decades of grime out of said carpeting. I was just beginning the descend the stairs with the canister filled with exceedingly dirty water when the bottom of the wet/dry vac, which, as it turned out, was not properly attached to the top of the wet/dry vac, tumbled down the stairs and deposited its murky contents directly onto my new, freshly installed living room carpet.
Good thing I had done my crying on Blueberry Day.

My mom and I stood looking at each other in disgust before I began yelling for her to get rag towels.

“Well, I can’t” she said in exasperation.

“Why not?” I asked in a tone admittedly not modulated by gratitude toward a mother who had spent hour upon hour working in a house she wasn’t even going to dwell in.

“Because the pipe on the laundry room sink leaked again, and the laundry room is flooded, and I used all the towels in there,” she told me.

After glaring at each other a few moments more, we cleaned up the dirty water the same way we had the first time—by sucking it up—and continued on until eventually the house was fit for human habitation.

Now, if you’re having a Blueberry Day yourself, may I suggest making Blueberry Thing?

This recipe, which my mom makes when she’s not helping her offspring rehabilitate decrepit houses, originated in the I’ve Got a Cook in Kalamazoo cookbook, published by the Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and actually is called Blueberry Thing.

The best part about it, aside from the fact it is easy to make and delicious to eat, is that when you serve it, you can say, “Would you like some Blueberry Thing?” Then your guests will say, “Well, yes, but what is it?” And you can reply matter-of-factly, “It’s Blueberry Thing.” And on and on this discussion will go until your guests become so overwhelmed by the desire to eat the Thing that they no longer care what it actually is.

But a word to the wise: when your guests get up to leave make sure they do not have any Thing embedded in the soles of their shoes. Because then you might have to clean your carpet.

And now you know how that is likely to turn out.


Blueberry Thing
A cross between a pie and a cobbler, this Thing comes together quickly. You can make it gluten-free by substituting a GF flour blend and 1/2 tsp. xantham gum for the AP flour. 

Crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4½ tablespoons milk

Toss together all of the above with a fork. Pat 2/3 of the mixture on the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of an ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Set aside.

Filling:
6 cups blueberries (fresh or unthawed frozen)
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tapioca
2 tablespoons lemon juice
dash of salt
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Toss blueberries with sugar and flour. Add tapioca, lemon juice, and salt. Spoon onto crust; dot with butter. Sprinkle remaining crust mixture over berries. Bake at 450 degrees (yep, crank your oven all the way up) for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 40 minutes or until bubbly (frozen berries will take awhile). If the Thing starts to get too brown before it bubbles, throw a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top to finish out the baking. Good warm, cold, or at room temperature. Good for breakfast or dessert. Good with ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 12-15 in a normal family, about 6-8 in ours. The original recipe says it's best the day it's made. True or not, we often use this supposed fact as an excuse to eat the whole pan at one sitting.






Had a Blueberry Day of your own lately? I'm sorry. But, I'd love to hear about it. :)



8 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed your post. It has been "Blueberry Day" for the past two weeks in my house. I love how well they freeze.

    Thank you for joining the July Everyday Friends Monthly Blog and Social Media Hop! ~Kelly, Our Everyday Harvest

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    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! You are so right about blueberries' freezability...so easy to to do, so easy to use later. Thank YOU for hosting the Everyday Friends Monthly Blog and Social Media Hop...I can't tell you how much I appreciate your efforts on behalf of other bloggers, especially newbies like me! :) I'm adding it to my link list right this minute!

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  2. We live in maine so we have a lot of blueberries here. It's one of the things Maine is known for. We actually have a number of wild blueberry bushes around the yard. I typically just use them for muffins or yogurt as my husband takes two blueberries muffins for his breakfast every morning. But this looks really yummy! I'm going to have to try it. (visiting from Mom 2 Mom Monday)

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    1. Oh, Julie, I am so envious of your Maine wild blueberries at your fingertips! An embarrassment of riches for you! :) Here in Michigan, I (gasp) buy wild blueberries frozen to use in pancakes and muffins...they work so much better than cultivated. But "regular" or wild would work just fine in Blueberry Thing. Thanks so much for taking time to stop by and to comment. I hope today is a Blueberry Day for you...but only in the best sense!

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  3. What a fun post! Thanks for taking us on the journey... I loved the back story and the recipe looks delicious!

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    1. Thank you, Cat! I so appreciate you taking time to go on my little journey! :) I hope today is a Blueberry Day for you--in the best sense! (No carpet cleaning required!)

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  4. I love blueberries and my eyes went straight to your post because of the lovely picture of the blueberry recipe! They are so good in everything. I wish they grew wild in Texas.

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    1. Thank you, Sandy! I wish they grew wild here in Michigan, too! Wouldn't that be lovely? But I'm thankful the cultivated variety works just fine in that Thing. :) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!