Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia , my summers were full of adventures outdoors, on both land and water. At the time I had no idea how unusual it was to have a dock in your back yard that provided hours of entertainment for my brother and me. We repeatedly threw sticks for Sadie, our chocolate lab, into the creek, watching her belly flop after them. We caught jelly fish in our crab net, and watched their tentacles dry out on the dock. Weekends involved day trips on our boat, with the big decision being, “Do we go to the seaside or the bayside?”
We lived in the middle of nowhere. It took 20 minutes to get to school, to the grocery store, and 90 minutes to reach the nearest mall. Besides the post office and a boat ramp, the only places within 20 minutes of our house were farms. One of the summer activities for my brother and me was going to the local blueberry farm just down the road, in Hacksneck. You could pick your own berries and pay as you picked. My brother hated blueberries (and most foods besides peanut butter) so the farmer would pay Rob to pick for him. (There were probably some child labor laws violated in this exchange, but the farmer’s wages seemed like riches compared to the penny my mom paid us for every Japanese beetle we gently picked off of her rose bushes.) We happily spent an afternoon on the blueberry farm, picking away, until our buckets were full and we grew tired from the summer sun.
This blueberry farm from our childhood still exists today, but has new ownership and a new name, Mason Beach Fruit Farm . You can still pick and pay for only 75 cents a pint. That’s quite the bargain.
After our trip to the farm, Mom and I would wash the blueberries and set to work on a batch of blueberry muffins. It’s funny. When I was little I loved picking blueberries, and making blueberry muffins, yet I always scoured the batch for the muffin that contained the fewest blueberries. I preferred the cake aspect of the muffin as opposed to the fruit. I even remember asking my mom if we could make one in the batch without any berries. In my old age, my taste buds have thankfully flip flopped and I have grown to love these delicious bites of blueberry goodness. Now I immediately pick out the muffin that contains the most blue and purple spots before David can select his.
When I saw the first of the season blueberries recently, I immediately thought back to my childhood on the Eastern Shore. The activities that I associate with this piece of fruit flooded my mind as I planned what to make with the blueberries: Driving down the road to Hacksneck in our very dusty, grey, Chevrolet mini-van. Rob and I riding on the farm’s ATV after we bored of picking berries and grew tired of the heat. Being in the kitchen with my mom, watching her drink her afternoon tea, while enjoying a blueberry muffin.
How does food make us so nostalgic? I’m not sure, but I love it. The memories and emotions that come to mind from seeing a pint of berries are amazing. What are your favorite summer food memories?
Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s barefoot contessa at home)
½ cup sorghum flour
½ cup tapioca flour
½ cup white rice flour
½ tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ tablespoon and 1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup whole milk
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
1 stick, unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh blueberries (plus more if you like to go heavy on the berries)
¾ cup sugar (plus one tablespoon for topping)
1 tablespoon brown sugar for topping
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tines with paper liners. Spray with PAM.
Mix flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir to make sure they combine well.
In another bowl, combine the milk, eggs and melted butter. Make a hole in the middle of the dry mixture, pour the wet mixture into the well and stir until just combined. Don’t worry if the mix is lumpy. Add the blueberries and sugar. Stir gently to combine.
Spoon the batter into muffin cups to fill liners In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and remaining tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle on top of each of the muffins. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until you can cleanly pierce with a toothpick. Makes about a dozen.