Speaking as a Fruit Bat   12 comments

What is your favorite fruit dish? Can you share a recipe for it? Do you include food in your stories? While we’re talking about food, pumpkin, yea or nay?

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I love fruit. Growing up in Alaska, our selections were few – apples (red or golden delicious), oranges (navels), bananas – and whatever was available in the canned fruit section. I still loved it, but enough visits outside informed me that we were being gyped in the fruit department.

The construction of the TransAlaska Pipeline brought a lot of changes here, including dozens of varieties of apples, several types of oranges, melons, plums, peaches, kiwis – and etc. I love it all so much that at one of the construction companies I worked for, my nickname was “the fruit bat” and the guys knew fresh fruit was an acceptable bribe to get me to do their paperwork special. I’d say my favorite are Bing cherries, but a tart crisp apple or red grape is a close second.

Fresh fruit is still expensive here (thanks to the Jones Act), so I still use canned or frozen fruit a lot. It’s not as good, but it’s affordable. I’ll include some recipes at the end of the article.

Setting the Scene

Yes, I use food in my books because it helps to set a stage. For example, in Life As We Knew It, the one book of Transformation Project that occurs before the apocalypse gets underway, I include a lot of food that is (or was, pre-Covid) available. It conveys the richness of the world my characters take for granted and are about to be jerked from. In my latest WIP in that series, I describe a meal Shane eats. It’s simple, it’s small, it’s what a starving world considers a feast. I think food plays a similar role to clothes in world-building. It’s a condiment that must be sprinkled lightly, but makes all the difference in the flavor of the setting.

I like pumpkin, sort of. I love pumpkin pie and I have both pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookie recipes. But please don’t put it in my latte (shudders!), or my smoothie. I don’t get the attraction. There are just some culinary Rubicons I don’t wish to cross.

Recipes

My absolutely favorite fruit recipe is simply cut-up fruit in a bowl tossed with a little sugar and a dash of salt or sometimes mixed with yogurt. It’s whatever is available in the produce aisle. Sometimes I add crushed walnuts for variety.

A family favorite is called ambrosia salad. Because I usually make this for the holidays when fresh fruit is limited and expensive here, I base it on fruit cocktail, preferably the chunky variety. I add apples and bananas and sometimes walnuts and it’s all folded into a bowl of homemade whip-cream, with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

Alaska blueberries are smaller and tarter than their Lower 48 variety. They have 10 times the antioxidants too. They grow on the hills north of town and in the bogs south of town. They’re not really the same berry, but you really can’t tell the difference between what we call blueberries and what the scientists call bog berries.

We pick our blueberries by hand from our cabin site north of town. We clean them of debris and freeze them on aluminum trays, then store them in the freezer like peas. You can pop the top on the container and roll out a handful into a bowl and put the rest back. I don’t make them into jam or jelly because I really don’t like sweet stuff and it’s too much work — all that cooking and jarring.

For me, a slice of toast with butter on it is more appealing than toast and jam — except — my husband puts our frozen blueberries on toast with honey and warms them in the toaster oven. The thawed blueberries and juice mix with the honey and — yummo.

There’s a local ice cream stand (only open in the summer, but you can buy from their factory all winter) called Hot Licks that makes Alaska blueberry ice cream. I don’t know how they make it, but I willingly plunk down $5 for a cone.

And, no, we don’t add our Alaska blueberries to the ambrosia salad because the juice turns the whip cream an unappetizing purple. We all agreed that was a bad idea that guests wouldn’t understand.

Posted October 12, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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12 responses to “Speaking as a Fruit Bat

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  1. Blueberries are one of the super-fruits – packed with goodness!

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  2. I’m a big fan of fruit, now I’ve finally got a garden and time to grow my own. They taste so much better from a plant you’ve nurtured.

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    • Yeah. Unfortunately, Alaska does not favor fruit for six months — sometimes eight — out of the year. We have raspberry bushes and rosehips in the yard, but our big crop every year is our blueberry fields out on our cabin site. We don’t nurture those other than to cut down the trees that are forever trying to take over.

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  3. Actually they taste much better when someone else has done the prep TLC! i was with you on the not in my coffee thing but when you got to yogurt I had to stop. People knock on canned fruit but growing up we had more of that than the newer, massive produce departments. In fact, a box of Florida oranges as a Christmas gift was a big thing back in the dark ages.

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    • My mom grew up in North Dakota during the Depression. She and her siblings looked forward to that box of Florida oranges that came on the train just before Christmas. I’m surprised they didn’t get scurvy, what little fruit they saw all winter.

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  4. Your bog berries sound much like the wild huckleberries I used to pick as a child in Western Pennsylvania.

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  5. Yum and yum again! I have a feeling I am going to be very hungry by the time I make it through all the posts.

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  6. I suppose it stands to reason that fruit would be expensive in Alaska because I imagine its all imported. The dish you described sounds very nice.

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    • It is imported, yes, but it’s also because of this law called the Merchant Marine Act of 1922 (otherwise known as the Jones Act). The Port of Seattle was being undercut by foreign companies, so they lobbied Congress to create a law that said foreign-built ships can’t pick up goods in one American port and deliver it to another American port, and they must use one of a handful of ports of entry. So, for example, my Amazon shipment goes within a thousand miles of the Port of Anchorage, but the foreign ship it is on must go to Seattle where it is offloaded onto an American-built ship to come back 2200 miles to Anchorage. It costs Alaskans about $250 million a year in extra shipping costs. It costs Americans in general, but it’s less noticeable for them because it’s being offloaded from a ship onto a train or truck.

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