gooseberry fool

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to recommend abdominal surgery, but it has had its benefits.

For one, everyone else has been doing the dishes.
And also, the girls have finally begun to understand that since I cannot bend over, they should probably pick up their toys before they are stepped on. Maybe this will stick, and I will never have to step on a cap-less marker again. We shall see.

But really, I’ve got to say that it’s done wonders for my speed.

Sometimes I feel like I am compulsively fast moving. It wasn’t always that way, but with the working and the kids and the moving into adulthood, it’s become difficult to settle myself into a moment when I am not, well, determined to accomplish something. It can really get a bit obnoxious at times, I have to say.

I guess this would be okay with me if it matched up with who I’d like to be, but it just doesn’t. Call me a woman of leisure, but I’d like to be able to have a few more moments in the day when I’m just okay with doing nothing.

I’m sure I’ve been overdoing it this last week and a half. I’ve certainly gotten enough stern talking to’s about it, and they have all been loving enough to convince me to take a break and sit down. There have even been a few times when it’s been my own body that’s given me the talking to. It specifically didn’t seem to appreciate the 11:00 black raspberry jam making the other night, and as I was already into it, I did what I could, and I directed Joey with a little wooden spoon baton from my perch on the kitchen couch.

But overdoing it or not, no one can say I’ve been moving quickly. Every path from here to there has been taking 3 times as long as usual. The kids have been running ahead of me, and they know I’ll arrive at the destination in 10 minutes. I’ve been taking smaller steps, and I’ve had a bit more time to look around. It’s actually been pretty fabulous.

Coincidentally, life has been moving a lot faster around me these last couple of weeks. There have been guests, and many small children around. And in the hurricane of it all, there I’ve been, taking my little steps, saying “I’ll be there in a minute.”

Last week, in a fit of supreme over-doing it, we went to Love Apple Farm in Ghent, NY. If you are anywhere within a reasonable radius of this place, then boy do I have an activity for you. At any given time, there are at least 3 fruits to pick. There is a low-key petting zoo and playground, cheap and tasty Mexican lunch, and a spectacular farm stand. Rande and Chris Loken have owned this little nirvana for 40 years, and their daughter Kristanna was raised on their perfect fruit and then went on to become a supermodel. There are pictures of her everywhere; one can not reach for a pint of peaches or a bottle of local honey without looking face to face with Kristanna in a bathing suit, Kristanna in Terminator 3, Kristanna in Ralph Lauren. It’s one of the aspects that gives the whole farm an inner quirk that makes it outstandingly lovable.

I was with a friend on this particular day, and we only had an hour or two, so after our Mexican lunch, the four girls we had between us ran to the black raspberry patch and got to picking. I took my little steps, and as usual, was there 10 minutes later. In the end, even for our short time, we had a lovely box in our trunk on the way home.

Those black raspberries made my late night over-doing-it jam, but that fourth box…do you know what those are?

It’s a bit of a new love. I’ve got a crush on the gooseberry.
Lucky for me, I actually have a few little gooseberry bushes in my own little yard. They have yet to produce a single berry. But when they do- man oh man.

Because gooseberries are a host for a pine tree killing fungus, it was actually illegal to grow them in several states for quite some time, and due to this gooseberry exile, most people I know have never seen or eaten a gooseberry. But English cookbooks are filled with them, and for years I have repeatedly been tortured by the description of this apparently most perfect of summer desserts.

It must be the British blood deep within me, the stuff that refuses to merge with the Eastern European Jew. Although I’ve never been to the UK, and I know that British tables are not famous for their food in a good way, I drink up old English cookbooks like Rosie drinks up fairy tales. A night with Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, and something called pudding just because it’s sweet is my kind of night.

Gooseberries have a bit of a shared quality with rhubarb- a tartness and maturity that make it so that I cannot guarantee that your children will embrace it wholeheartedly. They are red, and sometimes green, and sometimes orange, and the bushes have painful and rose-like spikes. Raw, they will pop in your mouth with a burst like meyer lemons and cherry tomatoes and raspberries all in one. And cooked, even more loveliness comes out of them, and they smell like spice as they bubble.

And so, in the forced slowness of my own personal July, and on this hottest day of the year, it seems to be the right time to sit down and do nothing, to get up for a minute to make some gooseberry fool, and then to sit down for a whole lot longer and do nothing again.

Except lick the glass until there isn’t a touch left.

Gooseberry Fool
serves 8 or so

1 quart gooseberries, stems removed
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon Kirsch

Cook the gooseberries in a medium non-reactive saucepan on medium heat until the skins have burst, about 15 minutes. Pour the mixture through a thin sieve and press through to another bowl with a wooden spoon to remove the skins and seeds. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Chill completely in the refrigerator. (Don’t skip this!)
Whip the cream so that it is still soft, and it just holds soft peaks. At the end of whipping add the maple syrup and kirsch.
Gently fold the gooseberry mixture into the cream and scoop into glasses. Chill until ready to serve.


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