Life is Just A Bowl of Cherries

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.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Sweets and the Like and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Life is Just A Bowl of Cherries

  1. Nicky D. says:

    There’s an ice sculpture in the background. Does that count?

    • michaelprocopio says:

      Oh, lord. That was a brilliant, brilliant link. I completely forgot this li’l Updike gem.

  2. Shannon says:

    So… are you bringing cherries with ice & mint tomorrow? Hmm?

  3. jodi says:

    cherries…and mint? Ruin the pristine pure expensiveness (unless I buy it down the street from the guy on the corner during the season) of my rainier cherries? Sacrilege! I’ll have to check it out with some bings or something. 🙂

    • michaelprocopio says:


      The mint is lovely. I do, however, understand your reluctance to “ruin the pristine expensiveness” of your fruit. At the very least, serve them on ice.

      It’s very, very nice.

  4. Susan says:

    There is an episode in Poirot in which two girls are locked out of their apartment and are waiting for their boyfriends to open their door after riding a dumb waiter that connects their apartment with the apartment in which a murder has taken place. Anyways, they sing this song with such an irritating clarity that I was stuck with the tune in my head for days after seeing that episode.

    It’ll be a couple of days to get rid of that song again.
    Thanks Michael

    • michaelprocopio says:

      Okay, so I just hunted down that scene. It took me a few minutes, but I found it. In French. And out of synch. The song, however, remains sung in English.

      I must say I don’t much care for their version:

  5. Susan says:

    Hi Michael,
    Thank you for the scene! I really enjoyed watching it!! I really look foward to your blogs.
    Another hysterical rendition of “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” on Youtube is the Hi Lo version. Watch it if you have time.

    • michaelprocopio says:

      You mean the one where Boris Karloff is measuring them for coffins as they sing? Apologies. I thought I thanked you for sending that to me. It’s so wonderfully bizarre/awful/kitschy.

  6. Susan says:

    Hi Michael,

    I’m glad to know that I was successful in emailing you from Youtube. I had tried several times to email a video but kept getting into an infinite loop. This is good for me to learn how to do these things – if only I could remember my password now.

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