Blues Choose

When our daughter gets married this June, she’ll include the tradition of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”; all items meant to bring good luck.  “Old” is a ring from her grandmother; “New” a necklace.  “Borrowed” is still to be determined while “Blue” is the garter her husband-to-be tosses at the reception.  Now, if the “blue choose” were mine to make, I’d go with a handful of juicy berries instead.

This week I learned a few things about blueberries, my favorite fruit in any orchard, grove, or patch on earth.  Just outside the tiny town of Whiting, Maine (pop. 482) you’ll find Josh Pond, a farm known for its “organic hand-raked wild” blueberries.  Josh Pond is harvesting into its fourth generation and its 150 acres include a herd of Oberhasli goats and a giant field of strawberries.  In other words, shop on the JP website and you’ll find a variety of cheeses, jams, and jellies alongside the blues.

You already know a thing or two about organic produce but perhaps you’ve never heard the term “hand-raked”.  Check out the following video (which beats any description in words).  It’s a soothing process to watch and a bountiful harvesting technique.  Josh Pond can hand-rake up to 2,000 pounds of blueberries a day.  They’re then quick-frozen, packed into 5-pound boxes, and shipped directly to you…at $100 USD a pop.  Do the math.  Josh Pond grosses $40,000/day on its blueberries alone.

$20 for a pound of blueberries is way steep for my purchasing power.  I’m reluctant to pay half as much, and even then I drop them sparingly into my yogurt/granola breakfast.  But I may be stingier than I think.  JP customer Chelsea Balboni gushes in her online review, “My wild organic blueberry subscription has changed my life.  Every month a 5-pound case is overnighted to me…”  Every month?  Who spends $1,200/year on blueberries (besides Ms. Balboni)?  For the record, I’m not knocking Josh Pond.  If you want the best blues North America has to offer, JP is your go-to.  Just be ready to pay.

Maybe I still spend more on blueberries than you do, but I find it interesting my blues choose – when it comes to food in general – is very limited.  Quick – name a blue food (besides Josh Pond blueberries).  All I could come up with was Blue Curacao, which isn’t food so much as a liqueur served as a cordial or in tropical drinks.  Blue Curacao, ironically, comes from the dried peel of bitter orange and is then dyed blue. (Why blue? No idea, but we’re getting off-topic here).

A consult of a blue food list comes up with just a few worthy entries.  Blue crab.  Blue corn (tortillas).  Blue (or bleu) cheese.  And Brilliant blue FCF, a synthetic “safe and non-toxic” dye for ice cream, cotton candy, medications, and cosmetics.  I half-expected to find Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts on the list but then I remembered: the wholly chemical toaster pastries contain no blueberries whatsoever. (Okay, maybe a dried trace of them, way-y-y-y down on the ingredients list.)

Hello, Violet!

No post on blueberries would be complete without a mention of Violet Beauregarde.  Violet who?  C’mon now, channel your inner Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Violet was the obnoxious, gum-loving rich kid who sampled a chew of Willy Wonka’s four-course dinner gum, including the blueberry pie dessert that “wasn’t quite perfected yet”.  In a wonderful scene (from the classic 1971 version), Violet turns deep blue as she chews, and inflates into a giant blueberry.  The last we see of Violet, the Oompa-Loompas are rolling her away to the juice press to be squeezed back to normal size again.

Hello, Sal!

All of this blues talk reminds me I need to read my granddaughters Blueberries For Sal, one of my favorite childhood stories.  Also, I’ll probably cave to one of the giant blueberry muffins my wife brought home from Costco the other day.  As for the tempting bounty from Josh Pond?  Ah, if only I could purchase just a handful for my daughter on her wedding day.  Instead, I’ll leave those hand-raked beauties to blues-choosers with a little more discretionary income. 

Some content sourced from the Josh Pond website, the Prepared Cooks article, “18 Foods that are Blue”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #14

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

You’ve seen this before, as we cruise past the 2/3 DOWN, 1/3 TO GO road sign.  Bag #14 – of 21 bags of pieces – added another seven keys to the board for a total of twenty-four.  There’s a lone key remaining to the far right; then the whole assembly goes into the body of the piano (and heaven help me on that maneuver).

Piano keys are getting repetitive so let’s talk about Sergei Rachmaninoff.  His name is intimidating but his music has an interesting connection with pop.  If you remember Eric Carmen, you already know a little Rachmaninoff.  All By Myself is based on Sergei’s Piano Concerto No. 2Never Gonna Fall in Love Again is based on Sergei’s Symphony No. 2.  Both Carmen songs were huge hits but they’re also depressing.  Did Eric seek comfort in classical music when his personal relationships weren’t going his way?  Maybe, but it wasn’t without expense.  The Rachmaninoff estate brought “copyright” to Carmen’s attention, and promptly helped themselves to 12% of the royalties on both songs. 

Running Build Time: 11.0 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Symphony No. 2 in E minor, and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Leftover pieces: 6.

Conductor’s Note: Forget Eric Carmen.  Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody… is one of the most moving classical compositions you’ll ever hear.  The piece starts ever so simply on the piano, then brings in the orchestra to dramatic, sweeping interpretations.  My wife isn’t a classical music fan yet she loves Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody… especially since it’s the theme of the romantic time-travel movie Somewhere in Time.  Have a listen here.

33 thoughts on “Blues Choose

  1. Blueberries are my favorite berry but they vary so much in taste, unlike raspberries which (to me) always taste the same. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years picking them at the local blueberry farm, then became the field boss. 🙂 So, I’m not used to paying for them since I could sneak them off the bush while I was picking. Blue foods, hmmm. I hadn’t thought about their rarity.

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    1. I’m guessing there’s a technique for picking blueberries efficiently, but I’m also sure it’s hard work. Even the “hand-rake” approach looks like it’d wear on you after a while. The effort that went into preparing my store-bought box is more than meets the eye.

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  2. I’m a big fan of blueberries too. As is my wife, who also loves Trader Joe’s organic blueberry preserves. Weirdly, TJ discontinued the blueberry preserves recently, yet kept their raspberry preserves. Aren’t blueberries more popular than raspberries? I’ve always assumed so.

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    1. The preference seems to change with jams, jellies, and preserves, Neil, even though I think blueberries are more popular than raspberries (as a whole fruit). Strawberry is surely the favorite of the preserves, followed by raspberry or blackberry. You don’t hear “blueberry preserves on toast” very often.

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  3. $20/lb for blueberries? That seems insane to me. But then, I only see them in little ounce or 4 ounce or whatever, containers. I’ve never done the math to see what that would be in pounds.
    Blueberries for Sal–I remember when one of my kids had that book for school years ago. Cute book!

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    1. I won’t do the math on those 4-oz containers either (but I admit to purchasing them occasionally for the sake of convenience). Thank goodness for Costco and their bigger-box options!

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  4. I like blueberries too, but $100.00 for a five-pound box – wow! Maybe if I was Rockefeller’s granddaughter! I had no idea they would harvest blueberries like that; I just assumed they would pick ’em. My mom used to get fresh blueberries at the roadside stands in August when they were fairly reasonably priced, wash and dry them and lay them on cookie sheets in the freezer, then put them in Tupperware dishes to make fresh blueberry muffins in the middle of Winter. Such a wonderful treat (not to mention the smell). I buy the dried blueberries for my oatmeal, but they are full of sugar. The piano is coming along Dave!

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    1. One of these days I’ll try blueberries from a roadside stand to see what I’m missing. Organic/boxed (from Costco, for instance) work just fine for me but like most foods, they’re probably noticeably better straight from the source.

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      1. For years, out in the country was Kurtzhals’ Farms, a big farm, in business since the late 1800s. Part of their property was at a major intersection. They must have gotten permission to do this … every weekend they took a truck pulling a wagon (like is used for a hayride), parked it on their property, then they put a variety of their produce in that. You pointed at what you wanted and the guy in the wagon, made up your pint or quart baskets or bags. We’d get a sunflower bouquet for $1.00. Such a deal and now they turned that corner into a huge produce market. I’ve been there to buy annuals and “hanging flower bags” but like you I only buy organic if I’m buying fresh produce.

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  5. We have a blueberry farm about an hour away that I have never been to, (maybe a blog idea for summer), but they will deliver frozen boxes of blueberries 5 lbs for $25, free delivery to certain towns once a month. You can also pick your own in season, and they have a store with baked goods, jams, pies etc. I’ve never heard of hand-raking, but it looked interesting. Blueberries are supposed to be very good for your eyesight due to the antioxidant properties, so I try and add a few to salads etc.

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    1. I need to visit your neck of the woods, Joni. I’d pick my own blueberries and buy one of everything in the farm store! $25 for 5 pounds, delivered? Now we’re talkin’ 🙂

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      1. They are wonderful blueberries – I get my neighbour to bring me some in the summer season and they are so flavourful, just like eating candy. Nothing like the ones in the grocery store. They also sell Christmas trees in the winter, so it’s like a family run business, with sleigh rides and seasonal activities etc. Unfortunately, the on site restaurant closed, (homemade turkey dinners) as it’s out in the middle of nowhere and they couldn’t keep it going during the pandemic.

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  6. I prefer to buy a big bag of frozen blueberries for my smoothies. They are some of the best foods for your health. I bet Josh’s taste noticeably better. I can tell when we buy better quality meat/eggs, but it sure hurts seeing the price tag. Also, very exciting to have a wedding coming up! I miss my wedding day but not all the crazy stress involved. Today is 11 months of marriage, crazy how fast time flies!

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    1. Yes to frozen berries, Lyssy. I portion them into small plastic bags, which makes the smoothie process even easier. It’s nice to see so much attention on berries and their health benefits these days. Growing up it was only strawberries in our house, but I think blueberries and raspberries are the better choice. All three will always be a staple in my diet.

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  7. I like blueberries, in fact blueberry pie is one of my faves BUT no way could we use a 5-pound case of them every month. That sounds crazy to me. I remember the cover of the book Blueberries for Sal, but not a thing about the story. Your grand piano project is amazing.

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    1. My dental hygenist always guesses my foods based on my cleanings, Ally. She goes, “Oh, I see we’re drinking red wine these days. How about coffee? Blueberries?” She gets me every time. Those three are among my favorite foods but they all stain the enamel. Good thing I go to the dentist regularly!

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  8. We buy both frozen and fresh blueberries – the frozen come from Canada.
    Interesting video (Rachmaninov: Rhapsody). Lots more arm waving by the pianist during his beginning solo part, but he settles down to less distracting once the Orchestra kicks in…

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    1. I watched the video again Margy; didn’t notice the overly-expressive hands the first time around. Towards the end he also levitates off the piano bench a bit. Too dramatic for my tastes!

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  9. What a clever gadget someone engineered for picking blueberries! I enjoy a small handful most mornings on my oatmeal–along with strawberries and banana. No need for sugar–the fruit does the job. Almost like eating dessert! / Love seeing the progress on your Lego piano. As well as you’ve done so far, Dave, can’t imagine sliding that keyboard in place should cause you any trouble. But it so, do they have trouble-shooters online you can contact?!

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    1. Yes, berries stand alone – no sugar needed! Not everyone agrees but I find they’re plenty sweet on their own. Great question about assistance from Lego (and my answer is “no idea”). I won’t search for contact information until I need it – might jinx my progress!

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  10. Hi Dave,
    So much information here!!
    Congratulations on your daughter’s upcoming wedding! How exciting!
    I never cared for blueberries until a couple of years ago when I decided to start eating them because they are good for me. Now I love them!
    I haven’t’ heard anything about Eric Carmen in ages. I do like his songs and it was interesting to read about it.
    Good progress on the piano!! Almost there!
    Blessings!

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  11. I’d make the same comment about tomatoes, Ana. Never cared for them growing up, but somehow developed the taste because I knew they were a “superfood”. I find the connection between Eric Carmen and Rachmaninoff fascinating. Would love to know what inspired Carmen to use the concerto and symphony as the basis for his pop music. I’m not aware of another modern-day musician who has taken that approach.

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  12. There is so much here! I think northern Indiana and southern Michigan are well-known areas for blueberries, so next time you are out this way during their season you will have to look for some fresh ones. For convenience we buy frozen ones, and they go great in quick pancake batter. The only other blue food that comes to mind are the “blue raspberry” flavor Icees that my kids used to buy when they were in high school. But I think that is all that food coloring you mentioned.

    Also, I am another lover of Rachmaninoff. Years ago I bought a multi-LP set of four (I think) of his piano concertos. For whatever reason, I have not listened to Rachmaninoff for years, but your link has been a great way to get ready for work this morning.

    As an aside, his link to pop music had another fat spot in the 40s. I can think of at least 3 hit records – “I Think of You” (Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra, 1941), “Full Moon and Empty Arms” (Sinatra 1945) and a pop version of Piano Concerto No. 2 by Freddy Martin (1945). I’m sure there are more.

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    1. Fascinating! Here I thought Eric Carmen was the only one to be so bold with classical music. I’ll enjoy listening to the 40s music you mention and picking up on the links to the past. I’ll say this about Rachmaninoff – I never gave any of his music a try, not even close His piano compositions tend to be “furious” and I’m in awe of any pianist who can survive them without breaking fingers. The same goes for Sergei Prokofiev. But I sure enjoy listening.

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      1. I recall reading once that Rachmaninoff’s stuff was also hard to play for most people because the man had exceptionally large hands and he wrote things that took advantage of that trait.

        The mid 40s saw a lot of popular music that was adapted from classical music. I ought to explore this someday.

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  13. I envy you the blueberry-picking experiences. For all the fresh fruit I grew up with in California, blueberries came from a box instead of a patch.

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