One of my professors, Dr. Smith, used to tell us a story when urging us towards specificity in our writing. I have no idea about the veracity of this tale, but I believed it because Dr. Smith said it. He was Scottish, dreamy, and would rock on his toes when telling a story. Everyone listened raptly, even my friend Josh who would be hung over, wearing remnants of his girlfriend's eyeliner, and sporting lopsided bedhead. This story began like this:
Nabokov used to guest lecture at various colleges throughout the Northeast, and when he would, aspiring writers would descend upon the campus, hoping to get the opportunity to sit in on one of his lectures.
Dr. Smith told this story more than once, but his accent was too sexy to ignore, even if you had heard what he had to say before.
At one lecture, a student waited until all the others had left, hoping for a moment to speak directly to the writer. More than anything, he wanted a nugget of writing truth, some clue that would help him achieve at least a fraction of Nabokov's success. When the room cleared out, he gathered his courage and approached his literary hero. He asked, "Sir, is there some suggestion that you have that could help me become a better writer?"
Nabokov responded with a question, pointing out of the classroom window. "What is that you see out there?" he asked.
The student looked out the window, smiled, and responded, "A tree. Why do you ask?"
Nabokov frowned. "A tree? You will never be a good writer." He turned, walked away, leaving a bewildered young man in his wake.
Professor Smith went on to explain the necessity for naming things specifically; a tree isn't a tree--it is a harbor for seagulls, a shade for lovers, an English oak, a cottonwood--but never just a tree. I tell this to my students each year. We laugh together at what a crappy teacher Nabokov was, to leave his student more confused, and most likely quite frustrated, but they get what I mean by telling the story. Something happens each year here in Southern California that teaches the same lesson more effectively than I ever could, no matter how good the story, or how well I tell it.
Every year, the jacarandas bloom.
A tree is not a tree. A tree is, as my usually non-sentimental friend SM says, "food for a soul."
A tree is grape candy.
A tree is why my out-of-town friends tell me I live in a resort, not a city.
A tree is time for AP exams, college graduations, summer in sight. It is a fragrant lavender smoke of hope, falling gently on a whole city.
No, it isn't laced with jacaranda blossoms, but it is the same color, and just as hopeful-- a vibrant gelato that will make all of the blueberry lovers you know swoon. Now that blueberries are hitting the farmers' market, buy them. There are multitudes of delicious approaches to blueberries, but I suggest you try this, as it is one of the truest ways to experience blueberry goodness.
You will need:
1 1/2 cups of washed blueberries, picked over for stems
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup lowfat milk
To make the gelato:
Stir the blueberries, sugar, and pinch of salt together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Make sure to stir frequently to keep the fruit from sticking to the pan. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium until the fruit began to soften and burst. This should only take a few minutes, perhaps three or four. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into a food processor. Pulse the machine a couple of times. If you like pieces of fruit in your gelato, as I do, do not completely puree the mixture, but leave it chunky. If you prefer a smoother gelato, puree completely.
Stir in the lemon juice, pour the mixture into a lidded container, and place in the refrigerator for at least three hours, preferably overnight, so it is solidly cold.
When you are ready to make the gelato, stir in the cream first, then the milk, and immediately pour into your ice cream maker. Follow the ice cream maker's directions to complete the process. Place the gelato in the freezer in an air-tight container. To serve, set the container on the counter for few minutes before dishing to assure a smooth, dense consistency.
Serves six as a sweet flourish at the end of a dinner party.
Serves four as a substantial dessert for a balcony barbecue.
Serves two as a meal.
Serves one in a large bowl when that one may be in desperate need for large quantities of hope.