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Monday, July 09, 2007

Blueberry Memories

I woke up this morning with such a strong taste for something that I was actually drooling.  I turned over to tell Zahava about it but she was already out on her morning walk with Jordan.  I just have to share this with someone... so, guess what?  Lucky you!

I should begin by saying that one of the fruits that I miss the most here in Israel is my beloved New England wild blueberry.  I recall picking and eating wild blueberries on a family trip to Maine so vividly that the memory sometimes makes me stop and check my hands and chin for the tell-tale stains of this indulgence. 

Oh sure, they have blueberries here... but in such small supply and in such remote locations as to be almost non-existent.  Apparently the soil here is not ideal for growing blueberries.

If you want to bake with blueberries you have to either buy frozen bags of berries that are imported from the US, or suffice with the syrupy-sweet canned blueberry pie filling that sometimes shows up in supermarkets frequented by anglos.

But ironically, this morning's longing wasn't even for fresh blueberries... it was for an unlikely product I discovered late one night while returning home from a gig in Manhattan.

It was about 2:00AM on a warm June night and I was driving up the Merritt Parkway in my Jeep Wrangler Sahara Edition with the top down (can anyone say 'midlife crisis'?) watching the birch trees flip by and trying to stay alert for the deer that seemed to dart out at the most inopportune time.

I normally didn't have much trouble staying alert on these late night drives, but for some reason on this particular evening I was becoming hypnotized by the warm air on my face and the monotony of the white-barked trees slipping past. 

I had a huge fear of falling asleep at the wheel, so I always kept a blanket and pillow in the car in case I had to pull over and nap on the side of the road for a few hours (which I did frequently enough that many of the State Troopers knew me by name).  But just as I was preparing to pull over, I saw the lights of a familiar gas station emerging from the darkness up ahead.    I knew they always kept a nice selection of fresh coffees (did I mention I love coffee?) so I pulled in and parked the jeep near the door.

When I walked through the door I was nearly bowled over by the smell of fresh blueberries.  This was one of those Mobil stations with a bakery section where fresh donuts and pastries were brought in (from a kosher bakery, no less!) around the clock, so I immediately went looking for the blueberry muffins or danish that, judging by the aroma, had to have just arrived.

But there were none.

When I asked the attendant where the blueberry smell was coming from, he pointed to the row of insulated coffee pots.

Blueberry coffee???  The very idea was appalling... revolting, even.  But as the smell attacked my senses, the idea took root and for a full ten minutes I paced around the place trying to come up with a rational excuse not to try it.

I don't know how many of you have read Steinbeck's 'Cannery Row'... specifically the part where Doc becomes obsessed with the idea of a beer milkshake.  Long story short, he finds the idea of a beer milkshake simultaneously disgusting and enticing... but finally gets to the point where he absolutely has to try it.  So he waits until he is on a road trip and orders one from a shocked waitress at a roadside diner. 

Well, that's what this blueberry coffee was like for me.  It wasn't that I wanted it or didn't want it.  Once I'd smelled it, I HAD TO HAVE IT!

So I poured myself a huge cup of the stuff (the blueberry coffee, not a beer milkshake... pay attention people!), added my usual dose of Splenda and Half & half, and... the world tilted on its axis.

It was as though I'd just finished a big slab of fresh baked blueberry pie with a rich, buttery crust... and was simply washing it down with a strong cup of fresh coffee.  I took a few more sips, waiting for the cloying fruit flavor to emerge, but had the same sensation... not of drinking flavored coffee... but of washing down fresh blueberry pie with strong, unflavored coffee.

Heaven!

I didn't even make it all the way home before turning around, heading back to the gas station and buying a few pounds of the stuff to make at home. 

So when I woke up this morning with this stuff on my mind, I realized it had been years since I'd had a cup of this ambrosia, and it was everything I could do to keep my hands from trembling as I surfed over to the Green Mountain Coffee website to see if they even still made the stuff.   

You see in the past, this was a specialty flavor that was only available for a few months per year.  When it was gone... it was all gone.  Sure, you could sometimes find stray bags of the stuff on eBay at exorbitant prices, but no, I never went that far. 

So you can imagine the happy dance I did when I got to their site I found that not only was it now available year 'round... but it was now being made with Fair Trade beans!  What more could you ask?

The only annoying part is that, like many of the other retail coffee pushers suppliers, Green Mountain has shrunk their 'pound bags' to 12 ounces while keeping the price the same.  Not a very savory business tactic, to be sure... but I suppose if they have to shaft someone, it may as well be the addicts end-users who can afford it rather than the farmers and field hands who pick and bag the beans around the world.

Anyway, I wish I could offer you some consolation prize for having endured this private reminiscence.  Oh wait, I can!  Here's a link where you can go and get yourselves some of this fabulous stuff!

Kashrut Update:  In answer to an email I received; Yes Virginia... Green Mountain Fair Trade Wild Mountain Blueberry Coffee is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU).

Posted by David Bogner on July 9, 2007 | Permalink

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This site offers blueberry coffee (and a whole lot more flavors as well, including blueberry cheesecake) for less than Green Mountain:

http://www.naturesflavors.com/default.php?cPath=45

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Jul 9, 2007 1:16:04 PM

Kosher and Fair Trade (officially certified, no fake)! That's really good news.

Slightly unrelated, what's been striking me odd at Starbuck's is that they pride themselves having FT coffee in their portfolio, but you never get a to-go brewed with FT coffee; FT only sells in packages for home use. Is their interest in supporting coffee farmers really that big, meaning...if they used FT coffee for to-gos, wouldn't they be able to support many more farmers?

But yeah...flavoured coffee...I guess I'm conservative here and prefer either vanilla, cinamon or almond.

Posted by: Account Deleted | Jul 9, 2007 1:26:14 PM

omg i want it.
yum.
blueberries are the best.

Posted by: Sarah | Jul 9, 2007 2:43:41 PM

Once you've gone Blueberry, you never go back... We didn't see many in the UK, so my recent downfall were those lovely chocolate-covered ones to be found in the heaven in your old country that is Trader Joe's: A reason to make Yerida, frankly.

Posted by: PP | Jul 9, 2007 2:59:02 PM

Long time reader, first time commenter. One of the great crises of my life was when I realized I might be allergic to blueberries...

Posted by: babyrabbi | Jul 9, 2007 3:20:42 PM

You could actually park your car by the roadside and take a nap?? Sheesh! I'm living in hell.

Posted by: Rami | Jul 9, 2007 5:29:27 PM

Our local (kosher) Dunkin Donuts added a blueberry-flavored coffee a couple of years ago. I have to be in the mood, but it's not bad. Not sure if it's available to brew at home - I'll have to check on my next coffee run.

Posted by: psachya | Jul 9, 2007 5:46:34 PM

Wow. The power of words. I don't particularly like blueberries, but all of a sudden, I need to some blueberry coffee!

Posted by: Shevy | Jul 9, 2007 6:03:07 PM

I'm off to Dunkin' Donuts!

Posted by: Yaron | Jul 9, 2007 6:14:54 PM

I like blueberrys and I like coffee, but together...

Posted by: Jack | Jul 9, 2007 6:49:23 PM

I don't drink coffee, and I only have eaten blueberries when I've been to Maine in August, but I love your blog. Sappy, but true.

Posted by: Amy | Jul 9, 2007 7:01:44 PM

Well, I have refrained from commentinglately because,.....well, ......I am lazy. But this post deserves a response. As you well know from our many drives together, I consider the Merritt Parkway one of the seven wonders of the world. I also consider the coffee at the Mobil Stations on the Merritt, particularly near exit 46 and 66 as much better than most Gas Station Coffee. You were also my guide into the world of Peet's (and shooting, all within 24 hours. I stilll have that $10.00 tuxedo shirt.) . Having said all that, I must vigorously protest your use of the term Blueberry Coffee as an iotem worthy of consideration in the coffee category.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Jul 9, 2007 7:02:54 PM

Jordan, you lazy bum!

Posted by: Jameel @ The Muqata | Jul 9, 2007 7:32:33 PM

Oh but fresh blueberries are even better! Just bought a 2-pound container of them yesterday at Whole Foods. The best part of summer in Maryland.

Posted by: Lisa | Jul 9, 2007 7:33:23 PM

The last time I had blueberries was during my trip to the states over 2 years ago! I'm not a big fan of coffee though, so I'll just dream about the blueberries...and try to block the vision of you doing the "happy dance" out of my mind (just kidding, of course)

Posted by: safranit | Jul 9, 2007 8:07:12 PM

I'm with Jack. coffee and blueberries are both good, but together? mmmm, NO!

Posted by: val | Jul 9, 2007 9:06:50 PM

tastes like fresh blueberry pie washed down with coffee? sounds like s/thing out of willy wonka or harry potter or...well....like mun (not sure of spelling).

Posted by: mata hari | Jul 9, 2007 10:29:58 PM

You deserve extra credit for mentioning "Cannery Row". It remains my favorite Steinbeck among many great Steinbeck works. I can report that I have had the beer milkshake and it came out more like a float. However, whatever became of coffee flavored coffee?

Posted by: Lee | Jul 9, 2007 10:36:02 PM

It certainly sounds like an odd combination. Although on your suggestion, one that we may need to try!

Posted by: orieyenta | Jul 9, 2007 11:54:26 PM

Beer milkshake? Blueberry coffee?

Oh lordy.

Reminds me of when I had three disobedient backmolars removed. The dentist ordered me to stay off solids for a week.

First day: no problem. I like yoghurt.

Second day: and milk. I also like milk. Does this white stuff come in any other flavour?

Third day: if you curdle it with orange juice, does it still count as non-solid?

Fourth day: I hate white coloured alleged edibles! Who invented this crap?
I! Want! Meat!

Near hysterics when looking in the refrigerator.

So: fried meat product into the blender with a can of chicken stock, a jalapeno, some spices, and a quarter cup of peanut butter. High-spead till frothy. Never has a non-dairy milk shake tasted soooo good.

I was in tears.

Can't quite remember the rest of those seven days - alcohol is also non-solid and non dairy.

Posted by: Back of the Hill | Jul 10, 2007 12:28:04 AM

You might be surprised to know that blueberries grown in the Shomron were being sold in Bet Shemesh at (what seemed like) reasonable prices some time around Shavuot.

Blueberry coffee...yum. Wish coffee didn't disagree with me so much. The pain just wasn't worth it. I had to swear off all coffee products!

Posted by: tnspr569 | Jul 10, 2007 4:14:09 AM

My children and I love blueberries and luckily there are in season in NJ, where I hope on our next trip up there, we will be able to go to a pick-u-own farm. I am not much a flavor coffee fan, but it's worth a taste.

(and I am also a roadtrip napper - it's inevitable that everytime I take a roadtrip, I need to pull over to close my eyes.)

Posted by: jaime | Jul 10, 2007 5:08:38 AM

Dave (Balashon)... The world is full of bargains. But in my experience you usually get what you pay for.

a.... Wow, I never thought about that. You're right! It's as if they are saying 'If you want to be politically correct (and pay the extra price for doing so, we'll be glad to facilitate it. But it isn't on our agenda'. :-(

Sarah... Ah, a kindred spirit! Yay! :-)

PP... Trader Joes: The mother ship! :-)

babyrabbi... Allergic to blueberries?! Oh you poor thing!

Rami... Yeah, the worst thing I had to worry about would be a State Trooper who didn't know me coming by and scaring the hell out of me by shining a flashlight into my face. :-)

psachya... It's funny, but I used to like Dunkin Donuts coffee but once I started drinking darker roast coffees everything form DD tasted watery.

Shevy... I'm flattered. :-)

Yaron... Don't expect them to have this stuff. If you want to experience the full monty you'll have to order from Green Mountain.

Jack... Kind of like the way you like a particular team and you also like winning bets... but you seem averse to finding both in one package. ;-)

Amy... Aw shucks. Ok, you're invited to visit. :-)

Jordan Hirsch... If you search your memory you might recall a time when you thought girls were 'yucky'. Tastes change... people change. :-)

Jameel @ The Muqata... Now now... Jordan's not lazy. :-)

Lisa... Way to kick a guy where it hurts! :-)

safranit... Nice. Yes folks, I've made peace with the fact that I no longer make most women's hearts go pitter pat. :-)

val... Forgive me if I find someone's taste who takes their coffee at a place called 'Chat & Chew' to be a bit suspect. :-)

mata hari... You have to try it to understand. BTW, nice to hear from you!

Lee... I try to bring a little culture into the drab lives of my readers. :-)

orieyenta... I'll look forward to hearing if you enjoyed it.

Back of the Hill... Oy, if I was ever placed on a liquid diet I would have to put steak in the blender at least twice a week. :-)

tnspr569... The price may have seemed reasonable to you with your tourist's budget. But to Israelis the price looked more like a telephone number.

jaime... Way to rub it in. :-) BTW, there is something fun about sleeping in the car on a road trip.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 10, 2007 8:43:51 AM

I love blueberries--and (of course) blueberry coffee. We normally get the at Trader Joe's and the local grocer's (or this time of year the farmer's market) but that site looks fantastic. Thank you!

Posted by: Inna | Jul 10, 2007 9:10:26 AM

Kind of like the way you like a particular team and you also like winning bets.

It seems to me that thus far your record is no better than my own. Just to be clear I am referring to the last time we engaged in this particular wager.

Be careful how hard you antagonize me. You just might be cut off from Jameel's magical waffles.

And everyone knows that waffles and blueberrys are a magic combination. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Jul 10, 2007 10:54:56 AM

another musical memory jogger, this time what you wrote put me in mind of 30 years ago, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, doing Roadrunner. Also had a number called New England. The memories come flooding back.

Posted by: asher | Jul 10, 2007 12:35:41 PM

But it isn't on our agenda'.

Definitely so. Luftgeschaeft.

I used to nudd the bahristaahs at the Heidelberg branch, and they never knew how to react; they usually didn't even know they had FT for sale at all (I never bought, as I supported the local German coffee bars anyways).

I did some searching for how it is like with US branches, and apparently there were some initiatives challenging Starbucks to sell FT to-gos by consistent asking to have a FT to-go. When Starbucks took note of a relatively large event organized through the internet, they even emailed their branches with instructions (i.e., to serve up FT to-gos).

Posted by: Account Deleted | Jul 10, 2007 4:38:51 PM

I'm glad someone else mentioned Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That's the first thing I thought of too, the three-course-dinner gum.

Posted by: Tanya | Jul 10, 2007 6:40:01 PM

Inna... Don't thank me... I'm a giver. :-)

Jack... True, like baseball and Boston.

asher... Funny how the old noodle works. :-)

a. ... I'll let you now what I find when I visit this summer. Nothing like getting all up in the face of minimum wage baristas who have no control over corporate policy. :-)

Tanya... Don't mock it until you've had a cup. I'm not exaggerating!

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 12, 2007 11:55:55 AM

I don't drink coffee and I don't like blueberries, so I'm unlikely to ever try it, but I'm not mocking.

That's basically how Violet Beauregard describes chewing the gum. She can taste and feel the drinking of tomato soup first, separately from the... I think the main course is roast beef. And then the blueberry pie is totally separate too.

Posted by: Tanya | Jul 12, 2007 5:10:42 PM

No, the price seemed reasonable to someone who had also lived there the previous year.

And mind you, tourist doesn't mean unlimited budget! My triple digit cell phone bill from last year's week-long trip to Israel is still fresh in my memory :-P

Again, I don't have one of those money trees us Anglos are supposed to have. I did meet an Israeli who knew that we don't have those trees here. Surprises abound.

Posted by: tnspr569 | Jul 15, 2007 8:02:21 PM

I was a skeptic...but no longer. My bag from Green Mountain showed up, and I tried it last night.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Posted by: Elisson | Jul 16, 2007 7:26:22 PM

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