About this time every year, a little Depression Era song makes its return to the food blogoshpere: “Life is Like A Bowl of Cherries.” One can bet that this song title will be borrowed for somebody’s cheerful blog post about the fruit almost as assuredly as on can count on those swallows invading the poor, decrepit Mission San Juan Capistrano.
And, much like those damned birds, this song (words by Lew Brown and Buddy De Sylva, music by Ray Henderson*) is as chirpy as they come.
Not that that’s necessarily such a bad thing. I mean, who couldn’t use the occasional reminder to shrug one’s shoulders and enjoy life?
Just have a look-see at the lyrics to see what I mean:
Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious
Life’s too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so,
But you can’t take your dough
When you go, go, go.
So keep repeating, “It’s the berries.”
The strongest oak must fall.
The sweet things in life to you were just loaned,
So how can you lose what you never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries,
So live and laugh at it all.
Why is it that Depression Era songs cling to me (please excuse the stone fruit metaphor) like fuzz on a peach? It’s probably my chronic broke-ness. And the fact that I have a penchant for music that was born about the same time as my parents. Whatever the reason, this song is stuck in my head.
I am taking this as some sort of sign. Therefore, I am also taking its message to heart.
No longer will I over-complicate my feelings toward cherries. I will do my best not to think of them as symbols of transitory beauty, who in desperate need to retain their youth, turn to alcohol for support. Instead, I will eat them and enjoy them as they come. And when I dip into a brandied one or two come winter time, I will no longer view them as Helen Lawsons-in-a-jar.
Nor will I focus on the seedier side of the cherry pit– that hard, bitter thing that can crack a tooth or choke a baby. I will not think of them as cyanide-laced stones that, if eaten in large quantities, offer up confusion, anxiety, vomiting, and death. Nope. I will dream of cherry pit ice cream instead.
From now on– or, at least until cherry season is over– I am going to focus on the now, the keep-it-simple, life-does-not-suck message of this glorious little song.
And I will live and laugh at it all.
Fresh Cherries with Ice and Mint
Why ice and mint? Why not ice and mint? This is how we serve them where I work. The ice gives the natural tartness a fighting chance against the sweet, much in the way that serving a big red California Cabernet Sauvignon at cellar temperature allows the inherent acidity of the grapes to balance out hugeness of the fruit (and masks the high alcohol). The mint is crushed and torn and shredded over the ice and cherries so that, as the ice melts, the mint’s essential oils gently wash over the fruit, giving the cherries a subtle little extra somthing-something.
It is simple genius, if you ask me.
If you haven’t tried it, you should. If you don’t want to try it, what on earth is wrong with you?
A bowl’s-worth of cherries. Bing, Brook, Ranier, etc. Whatever you prefer. Whatever is currently available.
A handful of crushed, fresh ice. Please do not use ice that has been sitting in your freezer for months. If you do, you’ll be washing all sorts of interesting flavors over your cherries.
A few leaves of spearmint, cleaned.
1. Wash cherries, place in large bowl.
2. Add ice to cherries. Toss gently.
3. Tear mint leaves and sprinkle over cherries and ice.
4. Serve immediately and eat without a worry or care. Unless, of course, you crack a tooth or ingest an extreme amount of cherry pits. In that case, I advice you to contact your local dentist or poison control center, respectively.
*On an interesting note, these fellows (either in collaboration with each other with other artists) gave us a selection of more food-related songs like “You’re the Cream in My Coffee,” “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” and “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree.