Perspiration dripped into my eyes, but my gaze was fixed upon all the golden, fragrant apricots above me in my father’s tree. I thought about all the people who would kill me if I fell off the ladder, so I quickly banished the thought to concentrate, and moved on to using the fruit picker.
Apricots are summer’s ephemeral fruit. One blink and the entire tree has ripened over night. Better get them down before the birds beat you to them. Already many were past picking, so juicy that the mere vibration of my hand about to grasp them was enough to send them melting off the branch, landing with a splat. My mother hated to think that my dad’s apricots were languishing on the tree – not much is worse in my family than the unharvested, the epitome of mottainai, or wasted. So I dropped everything to drive the hour to Anaheim, to spend two dusty, sticky hours filling box lid after box lid, shuttling them into the back patio where my mother sorted them into “Susie take home to make into jam,” “give away to eat,” and “let sit for another day before giving away.”
So shoe-horned into my preparations to leave for an academic symposium were two batches of apricot jam. It made for a bit of hecticness before flying out to Vancouver, but I knew it would be worth it. If I may say so myself, this jam is sunshine on toast. I am about to get out my apricot crumble recipe. My pal fellow associate dean Jane has stopped hinting for more apricot linzer cookies; she’s taken to out-and-out wondering when am I going to get around to making them again.
Before leaving my parents’ orchard of a backyard, I also picked several nectarines and navel oranges. I didn’t have time to pick the grapefruits and lemons among the forty years’ worth of fruit trees out there.
When I meet up with my family and friends next week at our timeshare in Laguna Beach, I’ll bring with me the jars of jam. One I’ll trade for a jar of karashizuke which my mother is making out of the nasu eggplant I grew. It’s summertime, and food project season is officially underway.