I grew up in the Snake River Valley. That’s where Famous Idaho Potatoes are grown. See how I capitalized the letters there? It’s For Effect.
The Snake River winds around that valley and its ancient flood plains are a dry, sandy place where potatoes grow. They grow well. My grandparents were potato farmers (they also raised sugar beets and sheep). I don’t remember them as farmers, but a few of their lessons have rubbed off on me.
During their retired years, my grandparents had a half-acre garden and orchard between their house and the river. We tracked the seasons by the ripening of the strawberries, the raspberries (I told you this story would be about raspberries), the plums, and finally the apples. There were also vegetables. Peas and cream on early potatoes were a delicacy. Cucumbers and tomatoes were never fresher from the vine. We’d fish in the river, and Sundays after church we’d sit on the porch and cherish the few short summer months.
Sometimes when our parents were out of town, we’d stay with grandma. We’d catch minnows in the river and put them in the plastic wading pool. Sometimes though, we went to Grandma’s house to work. When raspberries came on, picking was necessary every other day in the large raspberry patch. We’d pick several crates of them each time.
It was the absolute best time of year to stay at Grandma’s.
In the morning, she’d make a bowl of raspberries and pour sweetened condensed milk over them. A pure, delicious memory. It’s still the best thing I’ve ever tasted.
We’d slurp from sun-warmed spoons. A large one could fill our small mouths. Each berry was full of summer and it felt like each one could independently light a winter month. God, it was perfect.
Fast forward 10 or 20 years, and here I am in Portland in a friend’s backyard. The raspberries are on. They seem earlier, here; maybe not. The seasons are harder to keep track of; the weather here is not in my bones.
My friend and I picked a bowl full and I might have gotten a little carried away, a little emotional. I picked a perfectly ripe raspberry and put it in my mouth. Even when you’re hundreds of miles from home, you can still feel like you’re there.
Raspberries and Cream
(makes 2 drinks)
3 oz. vanilla vodka*
1.5 oz. Tuaca
1.5 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
4 dashes of Angostura Bitters
About a cup of fresh raspberries
In a mixing glass, muddle all the ingredients except for heavy cream together until the raspberries are pulverized. Strain the seeds out of the mixture. Shake with ice and strain into glasses packed with ice. Top with about a tablespoon of heavy cream in each drink. Give it a little stir before drinking.
*You can buy vanilla vodka, but I like to make my own. Slice two vanilla beans lengthwise and add them to 2 cups plain vodka and keep at room temperature for 4-5 days. The mixture will turn a beautiful brown. Strain it, and you’re done and ready to make a delicious cocktail.