We’ve been combining our love of eating with our love of hiking recently, denuding blackberry patches practically everywhere we go. On a recent hike, Emmeline and I decided to gather as many berries as we could in order to make a pie for dessert. We spent more than an hour crawling through thickets and bramble, scraping our fingers raw on thorns and thistles and avoiding the telltale signs of homeless encampments — the stray bottle here, the heavy tarp there. I told Emme to reach as high as she could for berries, not wanting to go home with a sackful of fruit made aromatic by the frothy piss of too many stale beers and low aim. But the picking was slow and painful and by the time that hour had passed, we started grabbing anything we could find, telling each other we’d wash the goods a few extra times before doing anything with them.I had wanted to make a full-blown blackberry pie, but in the end we just didn’t find enough. Although I wasn’t sure of the dessert’s name, I had seen pictures of something I would later learn was called clafoutis — a french crepe-ish flan riddled with black cherries. All I remembered was that there appeared to be as much filling as fruit and figured it would work perfectly for our haul.It did.It was the best dessert Emmeline and I have ever made — surely made sweeter by all the hard work and long baths we had to endure to create it.I used a recipe I found online and won’t get into the details here — you can see the recipe at this link. But I will say this was, as advertised, more cake-like. I later looked up recipes in the Joy of Cooking (why didn’t I start there? no idea) and Martha Stewart, and those looked like they’d create something more custardy. I told Emme we’d make all three recipes to find a favorite. She did not argue against it. All that said, I liked this recipe a lot — it was like a hybrid of a clafoutis and a financier. Delicious.Emme helped me make the batter, which had the consistency of thick pancake batter. She liked dunking the berries the best.After 35 minutes, the finished product came out golden and high around the ridges. After a few minutes of cooling, we sprinkled powdered sugar on top and prepared for the feast. Parts of it reminded me of cake and parts of it reminded me of a Dutch Baby — an enormous crepe-like pancake.I used to make all kinds of pies when I was younger — apple, strawberry, blueberry, you name it — but then something happened and I started to simply detest cooked fruit, couldn’t be in the same room with it. I went a full decade before tasting the decadence of a peach cobbler and soon remembered what it was like to inhale the aroma of drunken, syrupy fruit. Making this dessert with Emme reminded me of how much I used to love making pies. But this recipe was so much simpler and, in the end, a whole lot more delicious than anything I remember making as an awkward, clearly virginal teen.A friend told me that a traditional clafoutis can only be made with black cherries — pits and all — and that what we made is technically called a flaugnarde: the same recipe, but without cherries. Next cherry season, we’re going full French countryside traditional. Until then, pee-tainted homeless camp blackberries will have to do.
Our friend Joe, who is upstairs sewing with Dana right now while we wait for Top Chef to come on, likes to tell about the time he dumped a desk on the sidewalk, only to have someone stop and haul it away before he managed to shut the front door behind him. Pretty much any time you walk around a neighborhood in San Francisco, you’ll find anything from a couch to a mattress to a used TV or a cardboard box full of books.I’d been looking for years for a vase to hold cherry blossoms but every time I found one I liked, it felt like it would tip over if you put more than a dandelion in it, or it cost as much as our car.Walking home from the playground this weekend, we happened upon an enormous vase on the sidewalk, just a block away from home.Although we missed cherry blossom season, we do have an enormous fig tree in our backyard. While our flower arrangement skills need some work, at least we have the perfect vase to practice with. Now if only I can convince Dana to forgo the Tempurpedic mattress in favor of that yellow-stained one we saw on the curb the other day ….