They look like small jewels: round like pearls, scarlet like rubies. The red currant, a small berry I remember from my grandmother’s red fruit dessert–a compote of summer berries she’d make in August and freeze so we could eat the sweet summery stuff when snow lay on the ground. She used to pick them at her friend Brenda’s house, a sloped-roof cottage-like house on the edge of downtown Toronto. Brenda’s garden bordered on the Don Valley and so it was real nature back there. Brambles and wild flowers and red currant bushes at the very end of the slope that led down towards the train tracks a few hundred meters away.
My mom brought me two pints of red currants and one pint of gooseberries (and by gooseberry I mean a *real* gooseberry, not the ground-cherry-like fruit, originating from Chile, that they call a gooseberry at the mainstream Grocery Store). She brought them to me almost a week ago now and they still sit in my fridge. I look at them and wonder what on earth I can do with them every time I open the fridge. I’ve consulted my cookbooks, but no answers lie there. I’ve asked my mother-in-law, but she’s not familiar with them. (I realize now that I should call Brenda and see what she suggests.)
It’s obvious to me that as we have grown used to the transnational food system, with its seasonless offerings of the same fruit and veg from January to December (it’s like summer reruns at the grocery store these days: the same old tired stuff I saw in March is playing again in the same kiosk there) that we’ve lost the ability, the knowledge, to cook with the seasons. We don’t know what to do with a seasonal fruit like a gooseberry or a red currant (aside from make jam or jelly) because we don’t think we need them when we can buy oranges and bananas and pineapple to have with breakfast.
I can’t ask my grandmother what to do with these berries because her mind is far, far gone. If we don’t try to remember and record some of this communal know-how–this women’s knowledge, really–it may be lost to us forever.
So I will call up Brenda and find out from her what to do with the fruit. But in the meantime, I’m concocting a recipe for a red currant mousse. I’ll let you know how it turns out.