I recently visited a winery that had the absolute best blackberry wine! The smell instantly took me back to when I was a little girl, when we had a tall blackberry bush that ran the length of my grandparents' home and was almost six feet high. I loved it when the berries ripened enough for picking. With my grandparents' consent, people would stop by after church with their bowls to pick berries for pies, cobblers, jams, preserves, etc. I'd be out there, too, with my bowl for Mommy or Grandma to make me something sweet for dessert. I remember anxiously waiting, bouncing from one tip-toe to the next, watching grandma mixing sugar with the berries to make her own sweet syrup. It was the one time no one would fuss about my purple-stained clothes and fingers, well, not too much, anyway.
The ride out to the winery also brought in other memories. It was a beautiful day - just right temperature (low 70s). I was driving with the windows down and the air smelled like green onions. Instantly, I was a little girl again, playing between the houses in our yard. I had stopped to sniff the air, then I ran to the backdoor's screen to yell to Mommy that I smelled onions. She told me to "follow my nose", and I did. I don't remember what toy I was playing with at the time, but I know I immediately put it down and walked around that yard. Then, I stooped around the yard. And finally, I wound up crouching down near the side of Aunt Reba's house. I took a big sniff, and then ran inside to grab a toy shovel. I remember it was red, and I dug up a bunch of green onions. My mother took them from me and washed them. She said they'd be a great addition to the spinach she was making for dinner that night. I was so proud to have found them; my small contribution to her great dinner.
On many occasions, we'd pick pears from Aunt Charlotte's trees in Port Royal. Sometimes they were for washing and eating right away. Other times, they were cooked and served along with biscuits for breakfast or, simply made into preserves and the fruit-filled jars given away as gifts. For me, it was fun just being together, picking and washing the fruit, then deciding what to do with it later.
There are other food memories. Some of getting vegetables from Cousin Mae's farm on the island. On her way back from the market, she'd drop off spare bushels of tomatoes, okra, and green beans. We'd all sit around the kitchen and wash the produce, prep for freezing or dishes, and divide among the households. Other times, grandma's former students would drop off extra seafood from their catch earlier in the day. Crabs, fish, and sharks were cleaned or cooked, frozen or eaten for that night's dinner or the next morning's breakfast.
One more food from the earth story: pecans. We have a huge pecan tree in our yard. Every year, the tree would produce a bunch of nuts. They'd fall to the ground in their green casings, and eventually those would fall off to produce the beautiful brown shell you see in your local grocery stores. One Christmas morning, it didn't snow, but we had a very light dusting of flurries. The ground was lightly covered, and it was cold enough for the flurries to stay. I looked out of my bedroom window and saw people picking pecans from the ground and filling up their bags. I told Mommy there were strangers in the yard, but she said it was Christmas and pecans were great gifts for pie making and topping brownies and other desserts.
This is Beaufort County, SC. The people I'm talking about are Gullah people. I have stories like these of picking peaches from my great-grandmother's back yard in Savannah, GA. More Gullah folks. We fish, farm, cook, preserve, share and love well. We always have, always will. An afternoon with a glass of blackberry wine brought out all these beautiful memories of growing up Gullah: thoughts of home, people I love, and the good times we shared together. May this entry bless you with fond memories, too.