Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Grapes

Went to Trader Joe's yesterday and someone I'm married to put a box of grapes in the cart. They are called "Tomcord" and are a variety of combined ancestry: the seedless Thompson grape and the big purple and delicious Concord. The Tomcord is almost seedless with tiny pips that don't slow down eating very much. That Concord grape flavor is the one we all associate with standard grape jelly that comes to you in chain restaurants in tiny tins. But when I ate those grapes and tasted that Concord dominance, well, back in time I went!

I remember being a kid and visiting all the relatives in the small mountain town of Frostburg in Western Maryland. We lived in a suburb of Cleveland then, in the 1950s, and no one grew grapes in our neighborhood. But in Frostburg everyone had gardens and grew corn, tomatoes, and even grapes. The gardens were abundant with flowers for cut arrangements, but the headliner was the dirt devoted to veggies! That was the pride and joy of every home owner because, as a holdover from an earlier time I suppose, those vegetables fed the family in summer and fall, and were "put up" for winter.

The Great Depression had been hard on all in common, but those who could had big gardens to help feed the family. Then came the war years of WWII, and gardens held their necessity high. By the 1950s many still gardened, as a hold-over from hard times of recent past, and out of habit. Some, by contrast, were more than happy to turn the soil over one last time and plant grass seed to make a grand lawn, as a badge of prosperity and a life of greater ease.

But in the 1950s my cousins and I were able to prowl the alleys and scavenge for produce. Cousin Mike and I got in some very hot water for demolishing my Uncle Bernie's corn patch! Corn was a good prize but perfectly ripe tomatoes were tops, and eaten on the spot! Grapes were almost too much to ask for. And they were always those big Concords: great to eat and good for wine.

Aunt Flo had grapes! She was old and very nice so we were reluctant to trespass. But come on: grapes! Big ripe purple Concord grapes! In the heat of summer. Need I say more.

A life of crime is a hard life for a kid. There could be spankings and for sure a time-out. I've quit my garden raiding ways. I learned to always ask politely before taking garden goods.

Those Trader Joe's Tomcords sure did take me back!


Grape and corn thieves front and center.



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