Wild Northerner Magazine Summer 2018 - Page 24

Picking Traditions

Picking Traditions

Picking Traditions

BY LEIGHA BENFORD

BY LEIGHA BENFORD

I absolutely love northern Ontario summers. Nothing beats the feeling of sunshine after a long, cold winter. Nature shrugs off the snow like an old sweater, and things start to come alive again. Summer is such a bountiful time of year. It’s easy to make a meal from the lakes, fields, and woods if you know where to look.

When I was younger, I’d spend half of my summers visiting my grandparents in Timmins. My grandmother, Myra, a seasoned miner’s wife, had lived in remote mining communities across the north. I’m amazed at how resourceful women in her situation would have been. She embraced her surroundings, and knew how to use what she had to create delicious recipes for her family.

Each summer we’d go blueberry picking. As fun as that sounds, I’ll be the first to tell you that blueberry picking usually turns into a sweaty, dirty, mosquito swarming mess. But I’ll also admit that the end result, those little dark blue berries, is well worth the hassle. After we’d filled our baskets, I knew we’d be baking.

We’d lug buckets of berries back to my grandparents’ home to wash and sort. My Grandma and I would sit down and go through her recipe cards until we decided what to make. Every single summer I’d choose my Grandma’s blueberry muffins. The minute the oven door opened the kitchen would fill up with the smell of delicious fruity cake. A small scoop of vanilla ice cream turned it into the ultimate northern dessert.

We’d mix up double and triple batches and bake all day. The only rule was I had to wait until after supper to sample one. I was normally pretty good at being patient, but on one occasion the smell and sight of those muffins were too much. I grabbed one when my Grandma wasn’t looking and gobbled it up. It’s pretty easy to spot a missing muffin out of three full tins. It’s also pretty obvious who ate it when there are only two people in the house, and suddenly one has a purple mouth. I thought that I would get a scolding, but instead my Grandma gave me a wink and asked, "Well, was it worth all of our hard work?" As always, it definitely was. Two decades later, I remember the warm, buttery flavour and the sweet tangy bursts of juice from the berries.

My Grandma’s muffin recipe is written on one of my recipe cards now, and each summer after hours of sweating and swatting flies, I wash up that first basket of blueberries and mix up a batch. My kitchen fills up with that reminiscent, delicious smell, and that first bite reminds me how lucky I am to still have the main ingredient just steps from my front door.