Monday, May 28, 2012

Pause and Reflect

The Ballad of the Green Berets by Sgt. Barry Sadler
Before I knew The Star-Spangled Banner, My Country 'Tis of Thee, or America the Beautiful, I knew The Ballad of the Green Berets.  My grandparents had the record and they had this wondrous stereo system that I'm pretty sure was avant-garde for the times.  Their actual turn-table was in the dining room and you could listen in the house, but you could ALSO listen to what was playing out in their garage!  I'd go up to visit and, inevitably, I'd ask my grandmother to play this record - over and over and over again.  I liked that I could go anywhere they were and still hear it.  I could skip out to the garage where my grandfather was always working on something or I could stay inside on my grandmother's heels.  Putting myself in their situation now, I wonder that they didn't just shriek "Enough is enough!  Choose another record!"  But I don't remember them doing that.  It's as though they enjoyed the song as much as I did.  Both would be singing along to it - over and over and over again.  These trips down Memory Lane sometimes leave me with a melancholy heart, missing these wonderful people who gave me such choice memories.  But, mostly, my heart is grateful.  I was a lucky kid.  We are a lucky people.

Memorial Day in my hometown of Warren, PA meant several things.  Most importantly, it meant there was going to be a service down at Crescent Park to honor our military heritage.  The high school band would play patriotic tunes, guns would pay tribute, and the haunting notes of "Taps" would reverberate throughout downtown.  Afterward, families and friends would gather together for picnics, celebrating what was hoped to be the end of another long and cold winter.  This is also the weekend that the municipal pool would open - and stay open until Labor Day.  School would be out in about a week.  In short, Memorial Day meant summer was around the corner, and, in an area that gets pretty beat up from lake effect snow off of Lake Erie, summer is worth getting very excited about!

Originally, Memorial Day was intended as a day to honor our fallen soldiers, started after the Civil War.  Over the years, however, it has grown into a day where we remember all loved ones who have passed away.  This is a holiday-worthy reflection. 

I love that my hometown was steeped in pride and gratitude for our military history.  I grew up with a deep respect for those who have served and those who still serve our country.  My father and two of my brothers served in the United States Marine Corp and my oldest brother served in the United States Air Force.  My husband served in the U.S. Navy Reserves.  I admire them all for their commitment and their bravery.  

Chances are that you know someone who is serving or has served.  Take a moment to pause and reflect.  Remember your heritage, military and otherwise, and take stock in what you're contributing to your name to pass on to the next generation.

And, while I'm in the mode of telling you what to do today, make this Berry Cobbler.  It's super easy and has a very low "monkeying around" factor.   You're probably going to a picnic or some sort of gathering today.  Take this along.  You're going to need something good to go with memories - and this is that "something good."  The red and blue from the berries make it a fitting and patriotic offering.  The delicious flavor overall makes it fitting for loved ones - both present and past. 

Berry Cobbler
printable recipe card
2 lbs. mixed berries, I used blueberries and raspberries
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3 T. cornstarch
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg

Cobbler topping:
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
6 T. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
Zest from 1 lemon
1/4 c. turbinado sugar or granulated sugar

Vanilla Ice Cream - for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly spray a 9X13 baking dish.  Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the berries. If you use strawberries, you'll need to remove the stems and slice into pieces about the same size as the other berries you're using.  Zest the lemon, reserving the zest for the topping.  Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the berries and top with the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Toss to evenly distribute the ingredients and pour into the baking dish, spreading them out evenly.

In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and zest.  Add the pieces of butter and mix with two knives or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal.  In a small bowl, mix together the egg and buttermilk.  Add to the flour/butter mixture and stir until it  comes together and is well combined.  Using a small scoop or a large spoon, place dollops of the topping all over the top of the berries.  There will be spaces - that's OK.  Sprinkle the turbinado or granulated sugar over the top of the cobbler crust.  Turbinado sugar is just a very coarse grade of sugar and I find mine in the natural food section of my supermarket.

Bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown and the topping is cooked through and the berries are bubbly.  Let cool but serve warm.  Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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