Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wednesday: Deja Vu

While I was growing up in northwestern Pennsylvania, the neighbor behind us owned the lot beside ours, where he grew a fence row of concord grapes. The grapes would set on the vine early in the summer, the tiny pea-green pearl clusters growing ever-larger by the week, until the abundance of warm rains and summer sun would coax them into first blushing rose, then purple, then blue-black in early September. But they were far from ripe, and it wouldn't be until late September or early October, when the first frost kissed the earth, that the grapes were sweet enough to eat. When that happened, my neighborhood pals and I would raid the vines, sitting beneath the leafy canopies, inhaling the rich fragrance of the then-sweet grapes, plucking them one by one and eating them until we were sated. It was the highlight of our year, always, and we gorged ourselves sick every time. Then we'd go back for more the next day. And the next day. Until the vines were picked clean by the neighbor, who transformed them into jelly in small glass jars sealed with paraffin wax.

While grocery shopping the other day, I was startled to see concord grapes offered in a clear plastic clamshell, priced at the outrageous sum of $4.99 for the pound container. But how often have I seen these AT ALL since my childhood? Not very often. In fact, I bet fewer than ten times in the last forty years. Of course I reached for a container. Once home, I rinsed them well and settled them on a plate, allowing their distinctive rich aroma to bloom and fill the room over a period of a couple of days. Yesterday I couldn't wait another second, and, like the day after those first frosts, I sat and plucked the grapes, one by one, savoring their rich dusky taste and recalling the pleasant Indian Summer days as a kid doing the same thing. A small container of grapes is merely a tease. But the memory it called up has lasted decades.

No comments: