Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Blueberry Pie by Vicki Rains

I have a new favorite pie – blueberry.  August is blueberry harvesting month and the blueberries are plentiful in down east Maine.  About 6 miles from here is Blueberryland, a store that sells fresh blueberries from their farm. 
Roger's blueberry pancake, ready for the butter and blueberry syrup
Oh boy, more blueberry pancakes!  (The Maine Blueberry Syrup was wonderful.)  They also sell freshly made blueberry pies, not like Cocos or Marie Calendar, they are made throughout the day and are still hot when you purchase them.  So why are all the blueberry pies we’ve had in Maine better than any fruit pie we’ve had before?  They are literally stuffed with blueberries.  You can stand there and watch them make pies.  Take a fresh crust, scoop in about 5 or 6 cups of fresh blueberries to make a small mountain in the pie tin, sprinkle on about a cup and a half of sugar.  Add a little cinnamon and a couple other spices I didn't recognize, lay on an upper crust, pinch the edges and toss that sucker into the oven.

Blueberry barren ready for harvest
My Fodor’s travel guide says that Maine produces about 1/3 of the commercial harvest of  "wild" blueberries, with most of  the rest coming from Canada. "Wild" has been adopted as a marketing term for harvests of managed native stands of lowbush blueberries. The bushes are only about 4 inches high and the berries are quite sweet and have a more intense indigo color than the "high bush" berries grown in most of the rest of the country.  The berries are not planted or genetically manipulated, but they are pruned or burned over every two years, and pests are "managed".  Blueberry barrens apparently stretch for miles in Washington County,
Berries on the bush.
which is the county furthest east in our country.  Now that we know what they look like we see them all over the place around here.  And they are starting the autumn color change before the trees. The blueberries are harvested by migrant workers just like in California.  Supposedly 80% of the crop is harvested by machinery but the field we saw yesterday was being harvested by hand.

Maine blueberry pie with lighthouse crust
The good news for us pie eaters is that blueberries have antioxidants so that means we can eat all we want, right?  I mean, what's a little sugar compared to antioxidants?  They must balance out.  Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. So tonight we are having lobster cooked by our campground owners for $7.00 a pound (for the whole lobster), corn on the cob from the local market and fresh blueberry pie for dessert from a shop up the road that looks like a 75 foot diameter blueberry.  Somehow that makes the pie taste better.

Last winter we spent three months working on the Navajo reservation in Arizona.  Here is the final segment of my ruminations on the subject.

The Navajo People

One gets a fairly interesting view of people and their culture when it is based on visits with a doctor.  They have all the usual diseases but, as Roger has mentioned, they lost the gene pool lottery when it comes to rheumatologic disorders, diabetes and alcoholism.  What I found was that many of the inhabitants of Chinle had been working somewhere else in the country until they lost their jobs in the recession and came back to the “res.” (reservation).  There are very few jobs available on the res.

Hogans on the reservation
I had a number of elderly women, who lived in hogans without electricity, plumbing or running water come in requesting a letter from a doctor for improved housing.  One of these elderly women chopped her own firewood for heating.  I admit I got a skewed view of people but my impression of what I saw is that most had little hope for improvement in their lives.  I asked one patient why there was no barber, beauty salon, movie theater or library in town.  He responded that the political situation in town made it impossible to get the approvals that were needed. 

I noticed that the only Navajo professionals I saw were school teachers.  I asked one teacher why this was.  She responded that the Navajo don’t value education or going off the reservation for additional schooling.  In fact, if someone does, that person is often not treated well.  

One thing that disturbed me was that I never had so many patients, probably one every week or two, leave my office angry with me.  I had refused to refill their prescriptions for narcotics.  One of my most rewarding situations was when a recently retired Marine sergeant came into my office for a job physical to drive a truck.  He seemed rather despondent because he had been having trouble finding a job.  I asked why and he said that the Navajo didn’t value those who leave the reservation to work.  I asked what he did in the Marines.  I forgot the term but it had something to do with installation of electrical equipment.  I suggested that he go on the internet looking for jobs in areas that are known as “high tech.” and either did not have a bad recession or else are recovering well from it.  I also said that there are a lot of short term jobs in the country and with his pension and health insurance covered he could get an RV and go where ever there is a job.  He left my office smiling.  I had given him hope.

Time Off

Monument Valley
On sunny weekends we did occasionally take off to visit tourist sites.  We like Monument Valley so one Saturday we drove there to take pictures. Canyon de Chelly National Monument (pronounced “deeshay”, is a lovely canyon carved out by a stream.  We had been there a couple of years ago but since it is right next to Chinle we
Walking the dogs along the canyon rim
would take an hour or two and see one part of the canyon rather than doing the whole thing at once.  We had intended to take a jeep tour at the bottom of the canyon, but in May, when it was greener we just didn’t care anymore.  We were just ready to leave.  There were a couple of other scenic areas that we took pictures of but much of the Navajo reservation is desolate. 

Navajo reservation - pretty to look at but hard to live in

1 comment:

  1. Blueberry pie has always been my favorite. My Dad used to make the best pies ever. I also have a cousin who owns a blueberry farm in Oregon. I like to visit him. I really enjoy reading your thoughts on working with the Navajo. Very sad in most cases.