I once read an article proclaiming that memories can be triggered most easily not by sight or sound, but by smell. This surprised me at first, as I thought that familiar sights would cause the most remembrance, but as I thought about it I realized that scents have an uncanny way of bringing back memories.
Whenever I carve into a fresh pumpkin in the fall, I’m immediately taken back in time to Halloweens of the past where I worked so long and so hard to scoop out all the membranes from my pumpkin because I wanted to do it myself; I’m taken back to the bone-chilling Halloween nights in Colorado where I’d stay up way past my bedtime and thrill at the satisfying thud as candy after candy was dropped into my plastic pumpkin basket. The same thing happens every Christmas when I inhale the scent of fresh pine needles and feel the nostalgia of Christmases come and gone, and again in the spring when I rub the season’s first dandelion between my fingers and smell the sticky nectar which brings back memories of weaving necklaces out of the yellow weeds as I sat in my old backyard. Being a person who possesses a strong aversion to change (which I’m working on 😉 ), I find a certain comfort in knowing that no matter how much time passes or how many miles I travel, there will always be the familiar scent of pumpkins, pine trees, and dandelions, among many other things, to make me feel at home.
When I moved to my home in Washington nine years ago, I was ecstatic to find that our island is home to dozens upon dozens of wild blackberry bushes. At the end of each summer, when the sunsets are gradually coming earlier, the nights are starting to get cooler, and the beginning of school is just around the corner, the blackberries reach their peak. Along nearly every street there are tangles of blackberry bushes studded with dark berries in varying degrees of ripeness. One of my favorite ways to spend the last few nights of summer is to go blackberry-picking along my road. I tend to be a little too self-sacrificial when it comes to getting every ripe berry I see. I always wind up with scratches up and down my arms, a handful of lost hairs, and several minutes lost to extricating myself from a cage of thorns. But it’s all worth it when I end up with a bucketful of sweet, juicy berries!
I can never resist the temptation to stick my nose over a bucket full of fresh-picked berries and inhale their sweet scent. Memories of warm summer days are dredged up from the past, and I can recall baking numerous blackberry pies, picking berries with friends, and savoring a bowl of blackberries over vanilla ice cream on the night before the first day of school. The smell of wild blackberries will forever be equivalent to end-of-the-summer activities on my little island.
While I love blackberry pie, sometimes a cobbler just hits the spot. Cobbler is much easier and faster than making a pie, and you get a higher ratio of berries-to-topping (whether it’s crust or biscuit) in a cobbler. The other night I served this blackberry cobbler for dessert and savored every bite of its tender biscuit topping and sweet blackberry filling, made complete with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. The transition between summer and fall is always bittersweet, but this cobbler will tip the balance closer to the sweet side!
4 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup granulated sugar (more or less to taste)
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
pinch of cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbs cornstarch
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbs granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup milk or buttermilk
1 large egg
Stir together sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, and cornstarch in an 8″x8″ baking dish. Gently fold in the blackberries (if using frozen, make sure they’re thawed and drained) until berries are coated with the sugar mixture. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so the blackberries can release their juices.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, 3 Tbs sugar, baking powder, and salt. Drop the cubes of cold butter on top of the flour mixture and cut in using a pastry blender or two forks. When the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, make a well in the center. Crack the egg into the center and whisk it slightly. Add the milk to the well and stir until moistened.
Drop the biscuit mixture by large spoonfuls on top of the berries. (I like to divide it into 9 pieces to make serving easy.) Bake for 30-35 minutes or until biscuits are light golden and berry filling is bubbling.
This is best served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream!
(Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)