November 21st, 2012, 8:33 pm

Culinary Context: Cranberries

My family is health-conscious, having three professionally-trained doctors who watch their weight and prepare vegetable-laden meals. My sweet tooth and distaste for organic chemistry has led me down a different, path, but health concerns have sifted through the chocolate cravings. For that reason, I prefer fresh fruits to juice and actual cranberries to cranberry sauce. Since last year I depicted a turkey fighting with a duck over a pretzel pilgrim, this year I went with Juggles attempting to be health-conscious and failing miserably.

Cranberries have a unique pucker-sour taste, the kind that takes even the most lemon-friendly consumers by surprise. They have pointy ends for such round berries and firm fruit for hard chewing. The pointy ends lend them a determined personality to remain firm and shocking to their would-be eaters. If they had legs, the little berries would stand on their own.

Most people eat cranberries blended into a palatable sauce, boiled to a honey-thick texture, and spread on slices of turkey. Others eat the dried variety, which become sweet like sun-dried raisins. No matter how they are preferred, I extend thanks one day early.

I extend gratitude to sour cranberries because they have helped me through inconvenient viruses and stomach pains, whether through chewable tablets or steeped herbal tea. At one point such pains have caused me to lie in bed all day; fortunately I recovered after a day's rest. They also add a welcome pucker to breakfast cereal, breaking through the nutty sweetness of raisins mixed with granola.

Right now a box of these berries continues to linger in the fridge at home, occasionally opened for a quick nibble. Tomorrow, when I wake up and prepare for a violin lesson, a few will end up in my cereal. I'll try to stand them up on one end and catch them if they fall. Then I welcome their unforgettable pucker.

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