The Spoon Blog
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When I was a child, probably 5 or so, I went to visit my Grandfather in Pomona, California. It was summer and it was a swelteringly hot day. Grandpa took me out into the back yard to sit in the shade and put my feet in the pool. I looked up into the branches that were shading me and noticed that there were black plums growing there. Plums? Those only came from the grocery store! What were they doing in Grandpa's back yard?
At that point, he stood me up and lifted me up onto the cinderblock wall that surrounded his yard. He climbed up next to me and we sat, what seemed to be 15 feet in the air (of course it wasn't that high, he wasn't THAT spry!) and we plucked black plums off the tree and ate them right there. I will never forget the juxtaposition of sticky-sweet flesh against bright tart skin. I will never forget the juice that dripped down my chin onto my shirt, down my hands and arms and into my lap as I held the plum. I must have told my Grandmother the story, because she took me out into her garden in Bountiful, Utah with a salt shaker in her hand. Barefoot I crossed the back lawn and ventured into the black soil that was still slightly damp from watering. At the time, her garden overlooked the valley and the Great Salt Lake. It was late afternoon and the sun was getting low in the sky. We walked through her tomato plants (she always had way more than she needed, being a single woman, but I can't judge) and the green smell of the plants was all around me. She picked a perfectly ripe tomato, showing me how it felt and how it smelled, she said "lick it" (what??) and she shook the salt on the lick spot so it would stick, and then she said "eat it". Again, the flavor was amazing to me. Bright and rich at the same time, almost like you could taste the power of the sun that made it so perfectly red.
Those two experiences have resulted in me being EXTREMELY snooty when I'm in the produce department at the grocery store, particularly in the summer. I've taught both my kids to check produce by sniffing it (oh, the LOOKS we get!) and to squeeze with the whole hand, not the fingers, to avoid bruising it. Most of the time I simply tolerate mediocre "vine ripe" tomatoes, but I draw the line with stone fruit. If it's not perfect, it doesn't come home. I had the SPECTACULAR fortune of finding four perfect black plums last night. I had one for breakfast this morning. I was nearly transported back many decades to the top of a cinder block wall with my father's father beside me. Hallelujah!