For anyone interested in good WRITING about food, MFK Fisher is required, and delightful reading. I first discovered her books in 1982, when "As They Were" was published. I read the review and went out and bought it. As it turns out, I was a new initiate into what is a not so small cult. Her readers are devoted, and with good reason. The woman knew how to write. And she knew how to cook. And ultimately, she knew how to live. While it didn't happen, I remember this line from one of her essays "when I die, I want to be found, halfway between my kitchen and my living room, with an overripe pear in one hand, and a spilled glass of vermouth in the other."
Yes. That's all one can really say to that, yes. And all of the other writing is just as good. When she ends an essay with the line "It was a wonderful way to live," you have to agree, and wish you lived that way too. Her recipes were supreme, and they still are. I make her gingerbread, when I make gingerbread. And she "got" the idea of comfort food, when comfort food had no name. If you aren't reading her, go out and get some of her books , now.
So, how does she tie into Martha Stewart? Well, apparently, there was an episode of Ms. Stewart's television shows, many years back, when Mrs. Fisher (she was ALWAYS Mrs. Fisher), was the guest. The show was on raspberries, and apparently, Ms. Stewart was very excited about golden raspberries. Apparently, Mrs. Fisher said in great indignation "What's wrong with plain old RED raspberries?" In repeating this story on another show, Ms. Stewart was downright dismissive and condescending of "Il miglior fabbro" as T.S. Eliot wrote, i.e, "the better creator."
NO ONE makes fun of Mrs. Fisher. Especially not the pretender to the throne. And NO ONE makes fun of her when she's right. I find myself asking "what's wrong with plain old red raspberries? all the time.
Fact is, when I was younger, I DID use the golden ones, and when I found them, the white ones. They didn't taste like much, but they ARE pretty. And you have to be very careful when you work with them, because they bruise and discolor, and since they don't taste like much, if they lose their looks, well, they're like , well.. you know that my mind is frequently in the gutter, so you can fill in the blanks. But RED raspberries? I could eat them in season every single day. And black ones too, which from what I understand, aren't really raspberries, but are related and look somewhat like them, so they are called black raspberries. If there were any proof that these are fabulous fruit, I will recount a story that a farmer told me. One day, he found a large copse of wild, red raspberries, and had his fill. He went back the next day. And while the copse was still there, he noticed that much of it was flattened by something large that had sat there recently. Yup, a bear. And there you have it. Raspberries are one of bears' favorite foods. If you can't trust a bear on food, well....
These little guys are extremely labor intensive. They grow on brambles, which feel exactly like they sound. You will cut your hands, and you'll have to use them, because if you wear heavy gloves, you'll damage the fruit. And you need to be careful not to crush them. So, when you find them at an outrageously expensive price, just be glad you didn't have to pick them yourself. They are also very perishable. It is not at all uncommon to find a few molding if you leave them in the fridge for even a day. So buy 'em and eat em.
And how do you eat them? Well, like cherries, I have to confess that my favorite way of eating raspberries is to open the container, pour some in my hand, and shove them in my mouth. Cooking raspberries kills them. It just destroys their flavor and, if you cook them too high, their pigments separate into rather disgusting bluish purple hues.
This does NOT mean, however, that you cannot apply heat to them, it just has to be gentle. VERY gentle. Let's say you're making an open faced pie of peaches, or apricots, or late in the summer early in the autumn, figs. When the pie comes out of the oven and is beginning to cool down, toss some raspberries right on it. Glaze it with some jam, if you like, but that's all you'll need. Or do the same thing with a savory piece of meat, although I will say that the stone fruits do a better job here than berries.
In ice cream, what you would do is make your custard separately, and then puree the raspberries, and add them to the custard. Black raspberries make the better ice cream, in my view, while red raspberries make the better sorbet. It's something about the acidity: the black ones seem to have less of an acid kick than the red ones. We had them both this weekend. Normally, we go nuts over the sorbet, but the ice cream was so good, that it won our hearts. I think that's because the black raspberries are still with us. See, raspberries have two crops, and there will be one in the warmer part of autumn. Not so with the black ones. So there will be plenty of raspberries, but when you don't have the black ones to compare with, the red raspberry flavor is allowed to shine, and shine it does.
Spend some money on them. Eat them now, because they are in season. The ones you'll get in the winter, from Chile, are vile. Buy them and eat lots. If you are so inclined, you can freeze them, and use them in the fall and winter with cranberries for a lovely pie, but I've never done that, preferring to think back and also to think forward, to when I can enjoy them again, and think of MFK Fisher.