When our Emily was a wee lassie, I read “Cranberry Thanksgiving” and “Cranberry Christmas” to her each year about this time.
These are wonderful children’s books written by Wende Devlin and illustrated by her husband, Harry Devlin. There are many iterations, but because it’s Thanksgiving week, I’ll focus on the grandmother in “Cranberry Thanksgiving” and how she (at her age) learns a lesson about judging a person by the cut of their jib and their polished or coarse exterior.
Mr. Whiskers, a rustic sea captain, is a friend of Maggie’s, the granddaughter. In Grandma’s perception, he contrasted negatively against the foppish Mr. Horace, whom she had befriended. Beware of men who smell like lavender and carry a gold cane. The two men are invited to join Maggie and her grandma for a Thanksgiving meal, including her prized cranberry bread.
Granny’s house had a worn carpet and mismatched silverware, and none of that mattered. Sharing with those who were alone and being thankful for being able to see the good in life outshone any shame of shabby furnishings. It made me realize my henna-stained bathroom floor was almost exactly the same shade as cranberry curd. It must mean something.
The story started me thinking in the direction of my kitchen — specifically, the oven and how it stood fully capable yet sorely vacant of any baking sweetness. What really started it was a picture on Facebook from cooking.nytimes.com — a jewel-colored cranberry curd tart, richly red and nestled inside a nut crust.
I relish cranberries any way they’re dressed. I made the tart, which is delicious and just challenging enough to deliver that pleasant flush of fulfillment once it’s completed.
That led to remembering the children’s book. I grabbed a blanket, a glass of milk and some graham crackers, then sat with “Aunt Jenny” reading it aloud on YouTube to refresh my memory. The cranberry bog in the story is in the chilly Northeast, but we can boast over 3,000 acres of our own bogs on the Southern Oregon coast: in Bandon, Langlois, Sixes and Port Orford.
Oregon farms produce over 40 million pounds of berries each year. We have a longer growing season, making Oregon berries a deeper red. The Kranick Family has been farming cranberries there for over 100 years and were the first cranberry heritage farm in Oregon. See oregoncranberrygrowers.com to view a thoroughly pleasing video of their family harvesting the floating super fruit.
Cranberries are relatives of the blueberry. They are super healthful and packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. According to WebMD, they protect against liver disease, lower blood pressure, improve eyesight and improve cardiovascular health. They’re also great for urinary tract health.
They’re one of the only commercial fruits native to North America, with a strong history dating back to the Algonquian Nation when they were used for fabric dye, food and medicine. Excuse me while I have another slice of tart.
Meanwhile, back to Granny and Maggie. It’s Granny’s secret cranberry bread recipe that Mr. Horace, the dapper gentleman, tries to steal. Mr. Whiskers, a man of limited vocabulary but valiant efforts and a hearty appetite, saves the day by catching Horace red-handed. The truth is, they both need friendship, but it’s hard to trust a recipe thief.
Today I baked the cranberry bread recipe. As I stirred it up, I considered my friends who have become more like family. I don’t know what I would do without them.
I looked out the window, watching for the maintenance truck that would come bearing leaf blowers and two men to clear an avalanche of leaves from my yard and driveway. I wrapped two large pieces of cranberry bread and handed them with napkins to Martin and his helper. I appreciate them very much.
With each swiftly passing year, it seems less and less cliché to remind myself to give thanks with a grateful heart. Thank you to all who read this column faithfully. You are a stalwart bunch.
Back at the cranberry bog, Mr. Whiskers gave Mr. Horace the last piece of pumpkin pie, and they all lived graciously ever after.
Reach Peggy Dover at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her antics on Facebook.
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