07 September 2008

Ode to Ruth

The doyenne of the neighborhood block party was an indomitable woman named Ruth.  Ruth put up her own jam, learned pottery in her 70s, hybridized day lilies and was always good for a glass of wine when you went over to borrow a cup of sugar. Ruth was well-educated and had been a working woman, but by the time I really knew her, she was retired and leading a life of cussed activism with a side of pioneer spirit.

Ruth had a grape arbor in her yard, and picked piles of Concord grapes each fall.  Some of them became jelly, but others went into the freezer for her grape pie, her recipe for which was once published in an AP story by Cecily Brownstone.

One year, Ruth had a bumper crop of grapes and invited us over to pick some. I got enough grapes for two pies so I made one and, channeling Ruth, stashed a container of the prepped grapes in my mother's freezer for a future pie.

My mother's frugal tendencies have made her a heavy freezer user, sometimes to the good, sometimes to the "what the hell is THIS doing in the freezer?". My siblings and I have been working on the freezer, fishing things out to use or discard as the case may be. Recently, the grapes surfaced. The grapes I'd stashed away in 1994. Yes, they were 14 years old. They pre-date my wedding.

Out of perversity more than anything else, I decided to make that concord grape pie with those 14 year old grapes. And you know what? It was just fine.

Ruth would have been pleased.

17 comments:

Kyla said...

I love that story! Freezer as a time machine transporting you back 14 years, even if it is only in your mind.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Wow!

I hope Ruth wasn't (snort) a COMMUNITY activist. What a waste of time that would have been!

Sober Briquette said...

Great story, but I still don't eat grape pie.

Eva said...

Miracles of modern appliances!

flutter said...

that is so awesome

susan said...

yum..now I know what I'm going to do with the concord grapes that are hanging over the neighbor's fence into my new yard.

womaninawindow said...

Holy shit. I kid you not, this just reminded me that I have a dead bat in my freezer. Holy crap! When would I have remembered that? See how usful blogging is?

jen said...

ok so the dead bat sort of threw me just now.

i love your hood.

Aliki2006 said...

You know, I lived in grape pie city for 5 years and never got to try it...I'll have to track some down at some point--and now your post has made me even more curious about it!

lilypotter said...

It certainly looks delicious, even if the grapes are from the '90s!

Kyddryn said...

Wow - how awesome is that??

Shade and Sweetwater,
K

Kelley said...

Seriously? How awesome is THAT!

Your stories like this always make me smile.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Wow - grape pie, not something I've heard of in the UK. My Mum was also HUGE on the chest freezer. My Dad used to sometimes get paid by local farmers in meat (rather rural where I grew up ...) so you never knew what would be in there when you opened it. Bit like the Godfather sometimes.

Mayberry said...

That's fabulous. My MIL and her mother, who live together, are super duper freezers. I wonder what they've got stashed in theirs. The good news is, when they froze the top layer of our wedding cake -- it really did taste wonderful a year later. (But I'm not sure it would've held up for 14.)

Janet said...

She sounds like an amazing woman you were lucky to know! And how wild that those grapes were still good!

Mental P Mama said...

That looks fantastic.

Lady M said...

That's quite a freezer! The pie is beautiful.