HOSSACK: This is what blue tastes like
As I spelunk in and out of shop doors on Bloor Street in Toronto, I look like a tourist.
It’s because I don’t keep moving. I stop without warning, shade my eyes and peer.
Then turn around, all the way around, and resume walking.
Or suddenly backtrack half a block before changing my mind again.
Outside a tiny produce market, I clap my hands together with girl-in-big-city glee when I spot fresh local strawberries and raspberries.
And, not a minute after making my purchases, I’m back in line, having discovered pint baskets of wild Ontario blueberries by the front door.
Giddy. That’s what I am.
And when, a few shops down, I come across a jar of cloudberry jam to take home to Chefhusband, I declare yesterday’s flight, zimming over five provinces, worth every ounce of jet fuel.
The blueberries and jam are $7.99 each, but could be $107.99 for all I care.
This is not only my first trip to Ontario, it’s the first time I’ve come close to either of these little berries, made so much of on Food Network, in magazines and cookbooks, but so utterly unavailable in the West.
In the West, as you know, wild blueberries only come frozen, if they come at all.
Yes, we have their cultivated cousins at five times the size. And, we are not strangers to some of the world’s most impressive and varied field berries.
This weekend, though, is all about firsts.
I met my agent for the first time today.
I’m scheduled to speak at my writing school tomorrow — a huge first.
Then I’ll celebrate with writerly friends I’ve known for half a decade, but will meet for the first time.
For the rest of today, though, as return to the beautiful house I still can’t believe I’ve been loaned,
I’ve nothing to worry about except whether being toted in a nylon shopping bag has turned my blueberries to jam.
I’ve been careful, fretting over every nudge and bump, ensuring the cream I bought and the other berries aren’t crowding the paperboard basket with its delicate contents.
Now, as I write, a scone heaped with berries sits before me, topped with a dollop of hand-whisked cream.
Above me, a five-storey-tall oak tree drops immature acorns onto a sheltering umbrella.
I think a squirrel that scolded me a few minutes ago for invading its backyard is actually throwing them down. I offer a truce of blueberries (a handsome reward), but he’s not in the mood to humour lookeyloos.
The scone could be better, but the blueberries, warm from the greenhouse effect of my shopping bag, are sweet without being showy.
If it’s possible, they taste like the colour blue.
I’ve already concluded that a second pint would not survive until Sunday, then manage the jostle and scrutiny of security at Pearson International.
But, the real concern is that I left my camera at home, though a friend has promised to come by tomorrow with hers.
I don’t yet know which recipe I’ll include with this story.
The parfait in the picture is just berries and cream, for which no one needs instruction.
Once home, though, I think I’ll bake up a shortcake or cobbler.
Something to hide the fact that my wild blueberries will be Saskatoons (I need to make space in my freezer for this year’s fruit). And also to redeem that scone.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup cold butter
2/3 cup cold whole milk, plus more for brushing
6 cups wild blueberries (or cultivated)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tsp for dusting
3 tbs cornstarch
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add milk, bringing ingredients together with a fork until just combined. Divide into 9 balls.
Whisk together cinnamon, sugar and cornstarch. Toss gently with berries and transfer to a 9x9-inch baking dish. Top with dough balls . Brush dough with milk, dust with sugar.
Bake at 375F for 45 minutes, until biscuits are golden.
Cool for 1/2 hour before serving.