If you ever drive down a Midwestern country highway in summer, you will occasionally see a weather beaten sign, usually scrawled on cardboard by someone who appears to enjoy writing in oversized markers with their feet: U-PICK.
This is code for “bring a bucket and pick stuff” which is another way of saying “super cheap, super fresh produce HERE.”
You gotta go.
Sometimes it’s corn, sometimes it’s apples. My favorite U-Pick is blueberries. The season doesn’t last long, but there is something very different about the taste of a blueberry ripened on the bush, and a blueberry ripened in the box. I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s good. They farm blueberries everywhere but this taste that follows this seasonal ceremony of bush picking is uniquely Midwestern and devastatingly delicious. It’s totally worth driving 90 miles to East Jesus Michigan to find a field, the right right field, to go U-Picking.
Also, it’s oddly satisfying. Your hands come out looking like you killed a smurf, but it’s worth it for the seven letter payoff of all payoffs: cobbler.
I hesitate to post this like it’s a recipe that I came up with because 1. I didn’t and 2. It’s not really a recipe. This is another one of those things I assume everyone learned from an eccentric aunt, but here I am, finding myself having to make up for eccentric aunts everywhere.
It’s okay though. I’ll be eccentric enough for all of us.
BERRY COBBLER RECIPE (not that you will need to write it down – you’ll remember it by heart after the first time)
- 3 cups fresh berries or fruit cut roughly the same size (apples and peaches work especially well)
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- 1 egg
- 1 dash of cinnamon
- important yet optional element: parchment paper
All you do is line a brownie pan with parchment paper and fill with your fruit. The parchment is critical, in my opinion, because without it, a good chunk of the fruit will stick to the pan. Not only does that make for messy clean-up, it means you lose the best part of the dish, and I’m so not okay with that.
To make the crumble top stuff, just mix the four other ingredients with a spoon, then sprinkle on top, then pop in the oven for 30 minutes at 350. It comes out gold and bubbly, ready to serve over ice cream.
This isn’t so much a recipe as it is an all-purpose formula ratio. Doesn’t matter what kind of fruit or cake mix you use. It works great with gluten free cake mix, as well as that horse crap they sell down at the healthfood store. Also, you can swap cake mix for cornbread mix, and swap the fruit for leftover stew. Bam! Instant Shepard’s Pie Sorta Thing. My dad used to make it with sloppy joes. When was the last time I even had a sloppy joe? Is sloppy joe capitalized? Am I insulting Joe? And why was he sloppy?
I digress. You see where this is going. It’s just a nifty thing and it’s weirdly appealing. Dudes in particular seem to like this sort of warm and gooey, free-form style desert. It’s man food. It’s good food. It’s comfort food. It’s good!
Speaking of comfort food…
I don’t know about you, but I am so sad to hear about the passing of Robin Williams. Some 24 hours after the story broke, I find the news of his death is resonating with me more than I expected. And I don’t think I am alone in this feeling. What a tremendous loss — to all of us.
But, I worry. Because, while it is wonderful to watch the news and social media and see the outpouring of tributes and appreciation, I cannot help but feel some sort of paradoxical guilt for taking part in the audience. Is that crazy? Perhaps, had this man not felt the pressure of an audience, would he have felt the freedom to seek the help he needed before it was too late? Does my attention and desire for information feed this bloodthirsty cycle of broken celebrity? I worry. I see anchormen posted in trucks outside this man’s home, where his family and neighbors live. Do they not deserve to grieve in peace? Or is it comforting to them to know their loved one was admired, no — loved, by so many? I worry. It’s strange to feel these connections to people we have never met, yet we feel them every day. Television. The movies. The internet. We are so connected. Connected. Oddly enough, just last weekend I was listening to an interview between Marc Maron and Robin Williams (worth listening to, btw) and after half an hour I felt like I knew this man better than some people I have known my whole life. That was my connection. A one-way connection. Connected to what, I don’t know, but I worry the burden of the thousands of anonymous connections may have contributed in some small way to this man’s loneliness and perhaps even his death. I don’t know. I don’t. It’s troubling indeed. At this point I’m just rambling, but I feel like these things are worth saying aloud….or should I say in type. That is our connection too.
Like so many others, I will be up tonight watching Dead Poet’s Society and hugging my cat a little more than usual, thankful to live in a world where we can witness people with such talent. To my fellow Midwesterner Robin Williams, O Captain My Captain, I raise a slice of cobbler to you.