cafe mama

finding magic every day

fireworks and strawberry wine . july 04 . 2008

fresh oregon berries at eastbank farmers market
It is late, late on the night of the fourth of July, and the family is biking fast through the southeast Portland streets, through shared roads and narrow side streets. Monroe sleeps in the BoBike seat up front as Truman grips my waist from behind, and everywhere through the hazy muggy night, the blinking of red taillights competes with sparks from illicit neighborhood firecrackers. We can smell the scent of gunpowder and explosions, we are sprinting uphill, I am breathing heavily and urging my three-year-old quietly to 'hold on tight Tru!'

I am looking for Jonathan and Everett, they raced up Clinton to the cheers of the other bikers as they passed young, fit solo riders with the tagalong. Everywhere, down every street, I can see the blink-blink-blink of bikes' red lights, they swarm out from downtown this summer Friday night, in my imagination they envelop the sounds of cars and fireworks with their quiet whirring. We are part of something bigger, a bike culture, an unknowable force that is simple, sensible, a better way.

I sprint up a hill. 'Hold on tight Truman!' I say again. Quiet. Affirming. Stay close to me.

We get home, shooing chickens into their coop, locking up bikes, unbuckling helmets, we spill into the dark house, spreading our quiet in the strangely loud neighborhood streets. Open windows in apartments across the way prove that uncouth parties will gasp across the midnight line; there is the sound of little cars driven too fast, a beer bottle breaking, sirens several streets away.

But I am making strawberry wine. All the chaos is forgotten, I lift the kitchen towel and peer into the dark blue crock I found a few days ago at the Goodwill Bins and inhale the heady scent. The honey/water mixture (1:4, about two gallons) has mellowed into wildflower sweetness, and the strawberries are softening, the yeasts breaking them down into alcohol slow, slow, slowly.

Though we are still battling our family's devils, though we are still occasionally banging heads over preservative-packed ice cream bars, Jonathan and I have found this intersection of sustainable, traditional cuisine and chemistry and sweet fruity intoxication, we have found strawberry wine.

We have read that traditional cultures have always made fermented beverages; I have skimmed the list of possible ingredients, my eyes widening as I imagined wines made of honey and water mixed with everything under the sun, cherries and calendula and honey melon sage and currants and raspberries and plums. We have eyed our fast-growing grape vines, apprising the harvest in two years, imagining a cellar filled with bubbling of all sorts. Three kinds of grapes are only the beginning.

To make the strawberry wine, you need a crock and a big jar of raw honey, you need organic strawberries and good water. I used almost two gallons of water and a half-gallon of honey, and nearly two quarts of strawberries, but you could use any amount as long as you keep the ratios right (1 part honey to 4 parts water; one quart of fruit or so per gallon of liquid).

Truman is delighted by this not-yet-alcoholic strawberry wine, figuring out how to tilt the crock to expose the spout and pour himself a glass. "Srawberry wee-ine!" he says, delighted, over and over until I give in. "Srawberreee wee-ine!"

It is a sweet experiment, reconnecting as a family over strawberries picked by hand, wild fermentation, ancient methods, new loves. It is hopeful, it is patriotic, through strawberry wine we are creating a culture of our very own, capturing the organisms from the air, stirring them together with the quirkiest of family traditions, the best local ingredients, the very air and water of our home. How do we know that this is not the most important moment of our life, the most vital thing we will ever do? Isn't every moment, every action from now on key in the creation of a better, older, more simple, richer, new way of living?

We are making strawberry wine, and we are changing the world.

paying the bills

read my previous post . the me who matters now . june 28 . 2008