I can understand animal names like
Phish, Modest Mouse, Counting Crows.
I can even understand body parts like
The Shins and Heart.
If you’re going to name your band after FOOD, however,
use some badass adjective like
the RED HOT Chili Peppers
Or a an adjective and a funky noun like
NEUTRAL milk HOTEL
What is that? people will ask
You’ll mystify them with your profound misuse of words
and like Jack Kerouac
you’ll be cool.
But The Cranberries?
It’s hard to take music
presumably produced by a red bog fruit
I always love to eat blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. But I’ve never liked cranberries. In the summer I eat fruit salads almost every day with my favorite fresh fruits. It’s extremely refreshing and I feel healthy after eating them. Cranberries have never appealed to me because of their tart taste. They leave me mouth feeling dry instead of hydrated. I don’t mind cranberry juice, but when it comes to eating fruit, I avoid cranberries at all costs. My grandfather always wanted to take me to cranberry bogs, but I refused to go, so he would invite my brothers.
There are choices everyday, often more than four. Choose cranberry juice, juice, no juice or nothing, but then you will need an excuse.
Choices, you know the deal — equidistant, equi-accessible, equi-whatever. Except for the one on the far left, with comics on the wall. The choice is different, where to start, where to end and how long before people start to wonder…
I read a new Original Peanuts, a new Calvin, a new Hobbes every morning. They are always November 20-somethings, those comics, about turkey and cranberry sauce. Blatant and blunt, so American. There, just stuck on the wall.
I’ve never eaten a cranberry. Does it taste like the juice? I have always been a picky eater, just now am I becoming adventurous in the most simple way. The juice has a very strong flavor – staining, permanent – a reason why I didn’t like it when I was younger. I always thought that meal food was bad. It wasn’t meant to taste good. Desert was good. I liked chocolate. I liked gummys. No healthy food. No lettuce. No fruit. No vegies. I assumed things were bad. Now I have the reward of tasting things for the first time.
We never bought fancy foods; my father, a product of the Depression, scanned the flyers for coupons; he’d haul home tins of tomatoes, brandless sodas, and cans of frozen store-brand orange juice. The cheaper the better. My mother made culinary magic nonetheless. A November splurge: fresh cranberries. It was my job to send them and a plump orange through the hand-crank grinder, popping and splattering. Intense and bitter until I had stirred in a cup of sugar, the fruit was left to macerate a few days before being spooned into the etched glass bowl, saved for this one day, Thanksgiving.
There are two types of cranberry sauce during Thanksgiving at my house. One is made from frozen cranberries, oranges and sugar. The other comes in a can and looks like jelly. My dad says the can reminds him of his childhood. My mom says his parents raised him wrong. Personally I choose to abstain from cranberry sauce altogether. Every year I spoon some onto my plate, just to get into the spirit of things. Unfortunately it never gets eaten. Perhaps I don’t want to take sides or maybe I just don’t like cranberry sauce, but now, like Thanksgiving, it’s tradition.
There is always both fresh and canned cranberry sauce on our table for the big holiday meals when we have company. The fresh cranberries are from my great grandmother’s recipe. Add gelatin and sugar to cranberries that have been stewed in a mysterious juice until they pop. The canned (“jellied”) cranberry sauce comes from the Ocean Spray people. Actually, it takes a considerable amount of finesse to extricate the jelly from the can without endangering the carefully sculpted parallel lines on its burgundy side. After the extrication, one must carefully cut the sauce into slices the correct size for consumption.
[I just read the posts before mine. This topic (unlike “furniture,” for example) has brought back memories of very similar times for several of us! I’m looking forward to reading the posts by people who did not grow up with Thanksgiving…]
Red sticky juice sluggishly drips down my chin, branching into thin, vein-like channels, while the tips of my fingers enjoy newly acquired rubicund caps. My mouth opens invitingly to devour yet another pellet of this magical fruit, the unfamiliar mix of sweetness and tartness teasing the taste buds of my tongue. Reveling in every bit of my new food experience, I eat slowly to prolong the heavenly effect of the ambrosia. Contrastingly, mom pulls a face every time a tiny red ball disappears in her mouth; eventually she resorts to a glass of water. I inherit her share of cranberries.
I like cranberry juice. Well, actually I like Cran-grape juice better. Or Cran-apple. Maybe even Cran-raspberry. I guess all these different flavors say something about straight up cranberry juice. It isn’t very successful standing alone. But can you blame the innocent berry? Consumers just don’t appreciate its tangy flavor and clear rose tinted color. People like cranberries enough to string them together and hang them on their Christmas trees, but the flavor alone lacks some sort of taste appeal. I feel kind of bad, afterall, because Cran-raspberry and Cran-grape would be left out in the cold without one vital component.
When my family retreats to Cape Cod in the summer, we stay near the spot where sixteen Pilgrims – led by William Bradford, who came alive for me in a few pages of the Norton Anthology of American Literature, volume B, this fall – spent their second night on New England soil. That spot is bright and alive in August, but bleak, unforgiving in winter. Every year at Thanksgiving, I look at my plate brightened by field greens and yam soufflé and cranberry sauce and wonder how they survived those austere winters, subsisting on corn, ground and colorless, and not much else.
The tart tang sucks the juice dry from my mouth. The small round berry is hard. Its grainy body grinds through my teeth. There is no explosion of flavor and it does not bleed into my mouth to share its decadent lush drink. It drizzles into my mouth, but the tannins burn. The pores in my tongue pucker and shrivel. I spit out its mashed pulp but the sensation lingers. Raw and cold. I wait seven minutes and pluck another from the boiling pot. My teeth sink into its paper thin skin and flavor erupts in a hot juicy wave.
Cleopatra, languid, drips her fingers off the hammock. The sea breeze leaves salty residue on her gold bangles. Waiting.
She feigns importance while she anticipates her fix. Her wrists twitch. Five minutes. An hour.
Many men in white pressed linen drift out on the deck to attend to her needs. They have not forgotten, it is coming.
Several hours later, it is ready. Cleopatra is stiff. In the crystal flute, the cranberries of Southern Chile, pressed, pulpy, and mixed with organic sugar cane from Australia. Frosted with Scandinavian snow, the glass is served.