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Berry fool

(post, Robert Reynolds)


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In the past, summer days for children were not organized by adults. They were idle days, which is to say, kids were free to figure out what the world offered. The world was the lake, woods, house, porch, or the distance you could cover on foot or bike. 

Occasionally someone would get the idea to collect the kids to pick berries. Everyone was given a bucket and shepherded to wherever an adult thought they remembered finding good berries in previous summers. The berries always seemed plentiful. I don't have a memory of it being difficult to fill a good sized, gallon container, including eating as many as you picked.

If the picking happened in the morning, then the afternoon would include the activity of making Fool. We'd be given a glass loaf pan into which we'd place slices of cakey white bread after we'd trimmed the crusts. We approached it like piecing together a puzzle. The bread would be cut as exactly as we could manage. We'd put enough berries to make a first layer into a bowl, mash them with a fork, sweeten them with sugar and arrange moistened fruit on top of bread slices. We'd repeat that procedure until we had three or four layers of bread and lightly sugared berries. 

The Fool would be left to sit for a few hours. The sugar drew juices, and the juices broke down the bread until it almost had a texture between cake and cream, and the natural pectin in the fruit along with the starch in the bread helped it all congeal. Its magic was that it fooled you into thinking it was a cake. It only involved berries and bread. You easily ate seconds. You liked it when there was enough left to refrigerate overnight. You could have it for breakfast, by which time it congealed even more and resembled a sort of pudding.