the fruit bowl

This week, the girls and I were home together while Joey worked at camp. We walked to the river behind our house nearly every day, and alternate walks were to town for ice cream. It’s down hill to either destination, and then the choice is either to make the hike back up the hill with a wet bathing suit or an ice cream cone. Either way seems to work out well.

The other day, as we were flip-flopping down the road to the river, Rosie told me about how lately, even though she had lost her library card, the librarian always just typed her name into the computer and let her take out books anyway without giving her a hard time.

“It’s because I kind of belong to the library,” she told me. “They know me there.” And then she gave me a look with a flip in her voice, and there was a half smile playing on her face as she took off down the dirt road to the river, Sadie and I calling her name behind her. There was something about the thought of the library knowing her so well that seemed to fuel her confidence for the run down to the river–it boosted her cells so that they buzzed. It made her happy.

The next day, we went to Love Apple Farm in Ghent, NY. I’ve written about Love Apple Farm and all its magic before (supermodels, petting zoo, playground, tacos, currants–how’s that for a list?), but it bears repeating the suggestion to all who might be within range: THIS IS THE DAY TRIP YOU SEEK. On this day it was me and the three girls: Sadie, Rosie, and my sister, Maia, who’s a master fruit picker. It was a scorcher for us New Englanders, dry and nearing 95 degrees, but picking was framed by Mexican lunch on one side and ice cream on the other, and spirits were generally high. We found just-born baby birds in the gooseberries and left off picking so the mama could attend to them. Then, there was the shady playground with exactly three swings in perfect heights for three girls.

Coming home, hot, sticky, sweaty, the girls fell out of the car and found the coolest corners of the house, each curled up with their own book. I laid the fruit out on the table, and I filled a bowl with peaches, and I felt that same tingle in my body that I’d seen in Rose the day before when she’d talked about the library. I thought about how sometimes I have so much, and I still want more. And other times, anyone looking on might think about what was lacking, but in my cells, I feel full, and rich, surrounded and included by abundance.

It’s the fruit bowl. It is, for me, what I can only describe as a happiness trigger. A full fruit bowl makes me feel rich, like the house is ready to support anyone who needs it. There is plenty of food to eat and even to fill a pie, and when someone says they need a snack, I know just where to point them. It’s a little thing, but also weighty, and I feel very thankful for that filled bowl.

After a so-far summer of very little kitchen time, the apron came off the hook on the door of the pantry this week. Fruit from Love Apple became 8 jars of rainier cherry jam, 3 jars of Marisa’s small batch mixed stone fruit jam, 1 perfect tiny jar of red currant jelly, 4 bags of black raspberries in the freezer for smoothies, 1 batch of raspberry basil popsicles (Joey’s favorite of the People’s Pops), and a bowl each of gooseberries and cherries full enough to satiate Sadie’s snacking urges for an entire day. I filled a colander with nasturtiums from the garden, and now there’s nasturtium vodka infusing on the counter. And then at yesterday’s farmers’ market, I filled bags from the table after the market was over, and I made a gallon of this brilliant and wonderful soup with the beets and leeks, as well as a food processor full of pesto that filled the house with basil perfume. Still, I open the refrigerator and bags of greens topple out of it, and there are 2 kinds of ice tea in the fridge. 2 kinds of ice tea!

I watch for that tone in the girls, that half smile, that happiness trigger that always seems to turn their walk into a skip. I’m not sure I ever even recognized that process before I saw it in them. Happy library days, the promise of swimming (one direction) or ice cream (the other), the feeling that a place is so theirs that they can walk alone ahead or behind, experiencing the world without us. Those moments are mixed with the others–absolutely–but the cell tingle, the fullness of the fruit bowl seems to provide fuel to get through those other moments, and the knowledge that everything is always changing, so not to hold on to one or the other (too tightly, at least).




  1. says

    Oh, I just love this post. It’s those small moments- walking past a full fruit bowl or floating quietly in a lake– that re-center us and stir up the happiness and calm.

  2. Kat D says

    So glad I’m not the only one who finds secret happiness in the full fruit dish! I get a weird happiness from hearing someone complain that he shouldn’t have eaten that 5th peach because his belly’s too full now or another worried that all the juice running down her arm means she can’t lick it off fast enough and it might drip. We might not have much, but we do have fruit. :-)

  3. Tanya says

    You put into words what I feel so perfectly! LOVE your writing. And, nasturtium vodka? Who knew? I’m trying it. Thank you, as always….

  4. Anne Just says

    Some of my happiest moments at the library included your girls. I’m glad some of theirs include the library.

  5. Cindy says

    I’m a children’s librarian and we love children who feel they are part of the library, too. It’s mutual serendipity.

  6. says

    such a glorious day. sometimes my girls and i have such beautiful adventures, with food at the center. nasturtium vodka! peppery? is it peppery? x

  7. says

    A full fruit bowl makes me happy too. I love putting the away the week’s veg box because it makes me feel so rich – the eating possibilities seem endless.

  8. Anastasia says

    I love that feeling of belonging at the library!

    Just had the my first Maryland peach of the season yesterday – bliss! The fact that we have a bowl overflowing with them – superbliss!

    Thanks for this lovely, summery post!

  9. Adie says

    This was just the boost I needed to get out the door first thing this morning and go blueberry picking at Whitney’s Farm with my two sons! It was perfect. Thank you for motivating me to get out there and remember how much we love picking. Later in the week, raspberries!

    • alana says

      Mmm. Might I recommend making them into popsicles? All agree that the last batch of raspberry basil was just about the best thing EVER.

  10. Whitney says

    I think you are AMAZING! My husband has LOVED everything I’ve made from your cookbook, and I’m just SO GRATEFUL to have it! You have SAVED dinner and snack times around here! I’m looking forward to trying even more of your recipes! Thank you SO MUCH!

  11. Anna says

    A beautiful post. Alana, you are our next Martha Stewart, but infinitely warmer, more articulate and generous of spirit. Someone should get you on TV, soon. Where’s Food Network when you need them?

  12. Randi says

    Such a beautiful post, Alana. I’ve been following your blog happily now for some time, but recently found out that you’re friends with one of my favorite people (my niece Meg from your college days) so now I love you even more (from afar, of course!)
    Thank you for perfectly distilling summer down to a simple, yet so eloquent, post. It’s perfect.

  13. says

    Hi there, Alana. I read this post the other day, and just came back to read it again. That Rosie! I just want to hug her. (And compare bangs. Mine need a trim. Perhaps she’d like to do the honors?!) I know that feeling of buzzing cells and fruit bowls, full, and I’m grateful to you for getting it all down here. xo.

  14. says

    I love the idea of your daughter ‘belonging’ to the library – what an amazing second home for her to find! I dream of the day i take my son to the library and get him his very own library card…

    The peaches in your photographs look great – I might just grill some peaches for dinner tonight!

  15. says

    I get it. That is my wish for my daughter, that she find her fruit bowl, her library, her place where she knows that she belongs. To feel that comfort, all the way down to your cells is a blessing that not everyone finds. I wish that for my daughter.

  16. says

    I just got your cookbook from the library and LOVE it! I have already made two batches of yogurt (still perfecting it, still a little runny, but oh my goodness delicious) and the lemonade… I have already got ingredients for so many more. I just went to the farmer’s market today and filled my fruit bowl with peaches… and you are absolutely right! I love the way you put that happiness into words! I can’t wait to continue following your blog!

    • alana says

      Oh, thank you Jillian! I’m so glad the book is in such good hands, and I’m very happy to have you here, too!

  17. Diana says

    You put into words, in your paragraph about the feeling a full fruit bowl gives you, is exactly how I feel when I see branches in an orchard that are heavy with fruit. I’ve said to my husband, “I love seeing branches full of fruit like that,” and he’s said, “I know. Me too,” but I’ve never put that exact, very good feeling into words before. Nice.

  18. says

    As a librarian I can’t tell you how happy your post made me. I see so many kids here, and know how happy these books make them, rarely do I get to see how much of our interactions they carry with them into the real world.

    I have your book out now (borrowed from a different library as a matter of fact) I’m enjoying your stories and all of the inspirations. Can’t wait to start baking.

    Happy Reading and Happy Summer,

    • alana says

      Thank you Beth! Librarians are indeed the heroes of our household :-) So glad you’re enjoying the book, and thank you for saying hello!


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