by Claire Lindell.
In today’s world we can walk in to a grocery store and buy fruits, vegetables and all kinds of fresh produce from every country imaginable. Grapes from Chile, shrimp from Thailand and raspberries from Mexico, to name a few. There was a time not too long ago when our choices were limited to what was available locally and in season.
In the summer of 1948 my Mom received a phone call from the Station Master in Danville telling her that a package had arrived and would someone be available to pick it up. Off we went on a four mile drive to the railway station. We were presented with a large wooden handled basket with newspaper on the top to protect whatever was inside.
What could it possibly be? We were wondering and trying guess who it came from. What was inside this huge basket? It was heavy and the newspapers had protected the contents.
It didn’t take us very long to figure out what it was, once we knew where it came from and who had sent it. You see, it was blueberry season in northern Ontario and Granny and Aunt Ted knew how much our family enjoyed blueberries. They also knew how much we missed the opportunity to pick them. They had picked a huge basket full of this delicious little fruit and sent them by train from Sudbury, Ontario to our home in Asbestos, Quebec. We picked up the basket at the nearest railway station.
Can you imagine how this basket of blueberries must have been treated by the employees on the train? They must have known that there were folks eager to receive the package and they handled it with great care. The basket arrived safe and sound after such a long journey and several transfers from one train to another. There would have been a transfer in Montreal, then again in Sherbrooke and the last one in Richmond. We received it in perfect condition, almost as fresh as they day they were picked.
We drove home with visions of fresh blueberries and cream and of course, Mom’s famous blueberry pie dancing though our heads. Once home, Mom began baking pies. She was allergic to flour and often wore a mask, and when she didn’t wear her mask she would sneeze incessantly for at least a dozen times. For her, that was a small inconvenience when it came to baking pies, especially blueberry pies.
The basket contained enough fruit for at least ten pies. Some of the pies were placed in our huge Amana freezer, while we enjoyed several of those freshly baked. At that time we were a family of seven, one pie really wasn’t enough, especially since they were right out of the oven!
In today’s world there are many different kinds of blueberries. There are the cultivated blueberries which are quite large that can be purchased all year round. Wild blueberries from Lac St-Jean are very tiny and are available seasonally. Their tastes differ substantially from one to another, however, being originally from northern Ontario you can guess what my choice is when it comes to real blueberries with great flavour.