I’ve been considering a revision to Mark Twain’s oft-repeated words about New England weather—to paraphrase, if you don’t like it, just wait a minute. A little arrogant, I know, but surely anyone in New England would agree to a change, or at least an alternate version, of “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a year.” Last summer was an unmitigated disaster for everyone from farmers to merchants and restaurants and vacationers. It rained. It was cold. And it never stopped. We went from winter to winter with scarcely a break, with only the calendar to tell us what season it was. This year is its polar (ha) opposite: sunny, warm, already bursting with bounty. Everything is early.
My father, trained as an Air Force pilot in World War II, used to look up at the sky and say things like, “It’s going to clear in an hour” when it was deeply and threateningly gray, or “it’s going to rain at around 3:00” when it was sunny and pleasant. I have my own version of that predictive skill. I can tell, based on spring weather, what summer is going to be like, and based on early summer weather, what fall will be like, and by late summer, what winter will be like. Actually, it’s not skill; it’s the product of close observation, my more than 40 years of living in New England and being someone who is very sensitive to weather (simply put: thrive in summer, hibernate in winter).
Two scenarios present themselves at this moment in time. One, and currently what I consider to be most likely, is that “summer,” weather-wise, will come to a close by mid-August, when it will turn so-called unseasonably cool and rainy, a harbinger for a not-so-nice fall and a hard winter. Always hopeful, however, there is the possibility that our present glorious weather will persist through the summer, a good sign for a nice fall and mild winter—and extended agricultural bounty until the end of October. We’ll know soon enough.
Either way, I kind of win, weather-wise, because I will be departing in August. Meanwhile, the raspberries are in. (The strawberries, which improved over the weeks as the weather became dry and sunny, are in their final picking.) The currants are here, and the gooseberries, and, amazingly, the first sour cherries. The Harts of fruit lady fame say that even the blueberries are ripening way ahead of schedule.
One might well fear that this sudden and rapid abundance will be followed by a long stretch of nothing before the peaches and apples come in. But compared to last year, when all we had was nothing, I’ll take that. And doesn’t that mean the peaches and apples could be early too? This could be my best summer yet.
Just a prediction.
Raspberries with Pourable Tapioca Cream
It is hard to do anything else with the first raspberries than eat them out of hand. But this old-fashioned dessert treats them lightly and maintains their fresh state. Good for breakfast, too. Serves 4.
2 cups milk (2% is OK)
1 generous T instant tapioca
1 egg, separated
¼ cup, scant, pure cane sugar
¼ tea vanilla
Fresh raspberries or other juicy fresh fruit such as strawberries or peaches
Scald the milk; add the tapioca and salt and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with the sugar. Stir a few tablespoons of the milk- tapioca mixture into the egg and sugar, then stir the entire egg-sugar mixture back into the pan of milk-tapioca. Bring to a low boil and cook, stirring, for a minute or so, until it begins to thicken. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, and add the vanilla. Beat the egg white stiff and fold into the tapioca until completely incorporated but still airy. Chill. Pour the cream over raspberries or other juicy summer fruit, or layer in a coupe or wine glass. Leftovers may be refrigerated; just stir lightly to reincorporate any liquid that has settled.
P.S. Anne just brought me a piece of sour cherry pie for my breakfast. Life is good.