We wait all year for these blackberry days. For warm air, and even the hope of too much warmth for a few days. (It’s never that hot in Seattle, except for the three days of 90-degree weather. I love the way the sun stings my skin. And then I complain like everyone else.) For watermelon with flecks of salt and feta cheese, for sauteed zucchini straight from the garden, for peaches so ripe the juice runs down my neck and into my shirt.
For long-summer-evening gatherings, for friends laughing, for the sloping green lawn filled with children running and giggling together.
For the offering — blackberries picked off the vine.
Of course, there was food gathered on the table. There were plates of ripe tomatoes with olive oil, pieces of flank steak marinated in gluten-free tamari and lime, a ceviche made with just-caught crab and seaweed, a corn salsa, a roasted vegetable galette dotted with goat cheese. And this hash Danny made with every vegetable left in the drawer that day, just moments before everyone arrived.
Our friends love food. A table laden with something gluten-free and good is a given.
I don’t take it for granted.
But this gathering? The food on the table was only part of the joy.
When we moved into this home, we fell in love with it all — the light-filled rooms, the trek upstairs to our bedrooms, the French doors onto the back deck. It’s a moderate-sized home on a spacious plot of land. Sitting here now, in my upstairs office, I can see our neighbors’ farm, a stand of Madrona trees in the distance, green trees and overgrown bushes everywhere I look, and an enormous lawn surrounding us, the moat of protection. When we first decided to live here in January, we imagined a yard filled with kids, playing, in August days.
And that’s what we had that evening. Clumps of kids playing badminton, another group on the slip and slide. Some wandered through the garden, another couple of them jumped on the trampoline. Mostly, they foraged, finding the few ripe blackberries on the bushes that make up the back of our property.
August. We were picking blackberries together.
These are two of Lucy’s best friends, dear girls with kind hearts and mischievous spirits.
I love that Rebekah’s shirt says LIVE.
Our girl has good people in her life. She’s surrounded by spunky kids with feisty personalities and interesting minds. This group has been part of her life for awhile now, the children of our baking club. We haven’t been baking much lately — too much traveling and too much heat to turn on that oven again — so it was good to have them with us.
I cannot wait to see these kids as teenagers together. That’s one of the beauties of living here. With all luck on our side, we’ll know these kids for the rest of their lives.
Mostly, there was joy. Shrieks of giggles as these two bounced up and down. Shelby came to the party, took one look at the wide-open spaces, the clutches of children chasing each other, and she felt shy. She’s going through a shy phase at the moment, glowering at anyone new. Darling Zea, who is one of Lu’s most beloved friends, made it her mission to make Shelby to feel welcome. Within 15 minutes, they were giggling together as they jumped up and down on the trampoline.
They kill me, these kids. Standing there, that evening, I felt surrounded by people whom I adore, people who goad me to be better, who guide me to a life I once wanted to live. I feel grateful to know these kids and their stories. My own kid, a daily revelation in exhaustion and wonder. A husband who understands me like no one else can.
And to have blackberries.
I am so damned lucky.
That was one good birthday party.
STRAWBERRY COBBLER, GLUTEN-FREE
I threw this together just before my birthday party, not intending to make anything to share here. I wanted to make another chocolate cake. But time ran out. We had strawberries that had sat in their own syrup. We had flour. We had butter and milk. Cobbler.
(That’s why I like cobblers. You cobble them together, mostly at the last moment.)
When it came out of the oven, it was so oozy beautifully messy that I took photos. Carlos, another of Lucy’s friends, stood by my side, trying to be patient, and then saying, “Don’t you have enough photos of that yet?” I laughed. That’s the way around here. You have to wait until the photographs are done. I worried the cobbler dough would be a little too stiff. But everyone sighed when they took a bite. Light, pillowy dough atop sweet strawberries — this one I had to share.
This weekend, I’m making this with blackberries instead.
3 cups strawberries, green parts removed and cut in half
1 cup sugar
280 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ cups whole milk
Preparing to bake. Heat the oven to 400°. Set a large piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
Macerating the strawberries. Put the strawberries and sugar in a bowl. Stir them together. Let them sit for an hour until a syrup has formed at the bottom of the bowl.
Making the cobbler dough. Put the flour, baking, powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk them together. Drop the cold butter into the flour mixture. Massage the butter into the flour with your thumbs until the butter has brown down into lima-bean-sized pieces. (You could also use a pastry cutter or a food processor here.) Slowly, pour in the milk, a little at a time, stirring the dough together with a rubber spatula. When the dough coheres together, without any dry patches, you’re done. (It’s better for the dough to be too wet than too dry, so don’t worry about adding too much milk.)
Assembling the cobbler. Pour the strawberries into a large tart pan or casserole pan. They should be lovely and syrupy. Pour it all in. Grab big spoonfuls of the cobbler dough and dollop it on top of the strawberries. Use all the dough.
Baking the cobbler. Set the cobbler pan on the prepared baking sheet. Slide it in the oven and bake until the strawberries are oozy hot and the tops of the cobbler dough are browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes.
Let the cobbler cool and eat.
Feeds about 8 to 10, depending on the size of the serving.