Williamsburg! Not the one with hipsters, but the one with colonialists. Williamsburg, Virginia: I spent the weekend there visiting my childhood best friend, one of those maddeningly clever people who sees nothing unusual about being brilliant AT EVERYTHING. She’s funding her summer stay with paid environmental research, and also taking a linguistics class and poetry workshop. We spent the first afternoon canoeing around a lake filled with floating, crusty pads of algae that look exactly like elephant skin and/or broccoli casserole. It is deeply foul — happily, it’s what she’s finding a fix for, so  I got to play Paddler Two in her science experiment!

The next day, we got on a bigger boat, namely the ferry across the James River. It drops you off near a little town called Surry. I loved the little beach enclaves, the grand manor homes and once-grand ones like the beautifully decrepit, paint-peeling, clapboards-clapping house that follows:

But most of all, we loved the real reason we went there: blueberry picking at College Run Farms (which I do not think is run by William & Mary students, as the name seems to suggest — but perhaps it is, and what an adorable conceit if so). We picked two pints of blueberries, and it was only by exemplary self-restraint that we didn’t go in for another two, because the fields were gigantic, the berries heavy on their brambles and some even bleached white from so much sun.

I suspect that the extreme combination of heat and SUN may have had something to do with our admirably modest yield, too. Did I mention it was 105 degrees? And that there was no shade except, well, if you crouched low to the ground, nearly underneath the bushes? (I should know.) The good news here is that, oh my are blueberries better warm on the branch! They are eons better than what you find in the grocery store. You’ll just have to trust me.

The whole while, I had the sense of deja vu from when I went blueberry picking in Maine a few years ago, and accidentally-on-purpose ended up with fifteen (FIF. TEEN.) pint-containers of blueberries. That is too many blueberries. Too many to eat by the handful, so most met their gooey end in crumbles, cobblers, and crisps (there is a difference among the lot; one day I’ll explain it), MANY experimental muffins (this is the best one), jams, and even salads.

Two pints though? That is manageable. We used up an entire one that very night, with a VERY budget rendition of the Smitten Kitchen’s new peach-blueberry cobbler. It was “budget” because we worked around the cornmeal, brown sugar, AND baking powder requirements. Listen, when you have sunstroke from berry picking and get home at seven o’clock at night and still have to conjure up dinner, just see if you feel like running to the store for the sake of a recipe. I promise you, you will not.

(I won’t judge you for it.) Calls for cornmeal and brown sugar are easily waved away with slightly rounder cupfuls of flour and a squeeze of honey. Now, baking powder . . . well, in retrospect, baking soda is not an exact substitute. We chose to ignore that. We got something a bit more aluminum-y than is strictly desirable. But you wouldn’t know from looking at it.

Next time you find yourself with an extra pint of blueberries, AND baking powder: I unhesitatingly recommend this recipe. Or you could save the berries until the next morning, because our second use will blow your mind. (Hint: not pancakes.) Stay tuned.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mary Hart on September 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Hi! Natalie, It was so wonderful to finally get caught up with your mom–after way too long. Our time was just way too short. It was a year ago today that we got to meet you—which we remember very well, since this is the day my mom had a stoke last year. (She did have a second one later, but has recovered well from them both.) At any rate, I may be coming to Iowa City in Oct and would love to see you. I’ll let you know if it works out for me.
    I do also have to ask if you got to visit William and Mary while you were in Williamsburg. Our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, went there, so we have been there many times. It’s a charming place.
    Do take care and I hope the year is going well for both you and Billy. Good luck with the grad school applications. Peace, Mary Hart


  2. […] cameos, but I think the best present was the look on little senior-in-college and birthday girl Alex‘s face when she opened her last present: a waffle iron. Between our friendship history and […]


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