Raspberries. No matter where in the world I find myself, the moment that I put a raspberry into my mouth, I am instantly transported back to my maternal Grandmother. More precisely, her vegetable garden on their farm in the Bulwer district of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.
It is said that the sense of smell is the sense that triggers memory the best. We know that the sense of hearing is one of the last of our senses to leave us. For me, it is the sense of taste that opens the floodgates of childhood memory. Or perhaps it is only this one taste that does it and it’s strong enough to make me forget other memories…?
My Granny was a fairly formidable woman, in many senses of the word. Not least when it came to “doing things”. There was always much to get done when we went to visit Gran and Gramps on their farm up in the hills. As little children, she kept us busy, mostly in her vast and interesting garden, but also with walks up the road with the dogs, or to the fields where Grandpa was mowing for hay making.
The driveway to the farmhouse from the main road – a rocky, gravel road which belched dust in the winter months and became a quagmire in the rainy summer months – was a place of much intrigue for us as little children. We played for many an hour, indulging in fairytale fantasy making fairy houses in the layers of shale, which we divided up into various rooms, even carpeting these rooms with thick moss piles and furnishing them with acorn cups and other little organic treasures.
There was always time for mud pies, decorated with Gran’s many blooms and blossoms. (Beware the precious ones that we were forbidden to pick though!)
And then there was her vegetable garden. Vast, rambling, productive, mostly tidy but not without weeds-a-plenty. Gran’s veggie garden had a wonderful block of tall, thorny, scratchy raspberry bushes (or are they canes or vines?) which we always asked to be allowed to pick, regardless of the season! I do recall my utter disappointment when we visited out of raspberry season!
As a little girl of about five or six years of age, I remember so clearly the joy that followed the scratches: the taste and smell of raspberries: fragile fruit, pick gently and handle delicately, but the taste of these wonderful berries, matches their regal jewel red colour, find themselves at the top of my list of favourite things!
We would carry the bowl of berries back to the house, where Gran had baked a simple sponge cake, and these gems were combined with fresh whipped farm cream and the whole ensemble dusted with icing sugar, tea was served: a taste of raspberry heaven!
Followed fast on the heels of the teatime treat was milking, and off to the old stone dairy we were ushered.
Here in another rural, hilly piece of paradise, nearly half a century later, I have the pleasure of checking the young raspberry bushes/vines each morning to see what they have produced in a day – they are slowing down some, now that the sun has shifted it’s path south and the days in the north are shorter and cooler, but every other day, I have been able to pick a mouthful of two of memories!