Blueberry Cobbler, at the end of a long day

It is not particularly fun to call to mind the longest days of your life. But sometimes you do it anyway. I’m not sure why, but you do. The days on which people I love have died (and the days leading up to that) were without a doubt the longest of them. Sick days, kidney stone days, those are lengthy. The days you move out of a beloved home rank up there too.

It’s a funny thing, this kind of long-day recollecting, because most of the rest of the time all I can think is how fast the day passes, how quickly time seems to be moving, always trying to find any way possible to slow it down.

Another of my longest days came in summer, the time when the farmer’s market is revved up and Saturday morning’s singular purpose becomes market-going. I have made a note-to-self not to let the worst life has to offer take place in the summer. There’s just too much at stake.

So many long days had led up to this summer day that they all compete in my psyche for the title of The Worst. Nobody sets out to get divorced when they get married, at least not anybody I know. So when it dawns on you that you are going to have to do it, even though you just tied the knot months ago, there is little consolation. When you finally admit out loud, in words, that this sacred thing you did, in front of God and the world with the kind of lavish loveliness that befits only the truest of true bonds, was actually not the sacred thing you thought it was—well now, that’s a long day, a soul-crushing day.

On the bright side (oh yes), when I left this wrong relationship, I had someplace to go. That someplace was the condo my sister and I had bought together, where she still lived. It strikes me now how cinematic, how metaphoric that day was, with torrential rain and hail coming down in Chicago, destroying everything but also washing it all away. I walked into the apartment, dropped all of the wet at the door, and got in bed. I was reminded of the other times I lay in bed when it wasn’t night time, times when I was physically ill, and how strange it feels to be there while the rest of the world goes about its business.

Peg came in and did what she does best: she gave. She pulled the blanket up over me. She told me this is not the defining moment of my life. She said this wasn’t such a surprise, that I hadn’t been myself in quite a while, and that the hardest part, the deciding part and the taking leave, was over. She left me with boxes of Kleenex, not a handful of Kleenex and not just one box, but boxes. It was a gesture that stays with me because it said: you’re going to cry your eyes out. You’re supposed to. Have at it. Which I did. The tears wouldn’t stop, in fact, and I stayed there in the bed like an invalid for two long days.

In the middle of this drama was a Saturday morning, market morning. Peg wanted me to come, to get some fresh air and fruit and vegetables and flowers. I wanted none of it. The day you don’t care about the bounty of summer at the market is a day you hope doesn’t come again soon. She waited through the early morning hours when we normally would have headed over, and finally when it was clear I would not be able to pull myself away from the wreck, she went, then returned. I didn’t see what she walked in with, but later the scent of tuberoses told me there was a vase on my dresser.

I could hear the sounds of baking going on in the kitchen. Come and measure the flour, Peg said. I wouldn’t. Come and mix the berries with sugar, she said. I couldn’t. Drop the dough over them then? I had nothing of it until I smelled the berries bubbling and the shortbread crust baking. I lifted my zombie-self out of bed and walked to the oven, which could tell I needed a hug. I sat down in front of her with my box of Kleenex and watched the cobbler bake. It might not seem like it, but it’s going to be ok, I promise you, Peg said. The oven said so too. And both of them were right.

Canal House Blueberry Cobbler
The berries in this are cobbled together with a shortbread cookie-like crust, which for me is the finest around, far better than an oat-based crisp (oatmeal cookies do nothing for me, see). Use any mix of berries you like. Canal House also recommends Italian prune plums for this, reducing the cornstarch to 2 teaspoons and adding a hint of cinnamon to the fruit. I’ve changed up the Canal House version here by suggesting other fruits and adding lemon juice for that excellent sweet-tart flavor.

½ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
8 tablespoons (4 oz., 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 pints fresh blueberries (or raspberries, blackberries, cherries, or a mix)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a medium bowl with a wooden spoon, beat the butter with ½ cup of the sugar until well combined. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until well combined. Refrigerate the dough while preheating the oven to 375 degrees.

In another medium bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup sugar and the cornstarch. Add the berries and toss to gently coat.

Put the berries into an 8-inch square (or any shape) baking dish. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the berries. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons over the berries, flattening the drops out so that they will bake through evenly.. These drops need not connect.

Bake until the berries are bulbbing and the topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool a bit before serving. Especially good at the end of a long day with vanilla ice cream.

Find a PDF of this recipe here.

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21 Responses to Blueberry Cobbler, at the end of a long day

  1. Lisa Fata says:

    Thank God for sisters.

  2. Sofia Perez says:

    I am NOT going to cry as I read this. I am NOT going to cry. I am NOT. Going. To. Cry.

    Oh, darnit it all… there I go with the tears…

    Maureen: I’m so glad you got through it and that you’re now okay. More than okay, my dear.

  3. Celine Terranova says:

    Oh, how beautifully written! I wholeheartedly agree with Lisa and Sofia!

  4. Elaine Archer says:

    I cry in movies, I cry reading books, but a cooking blog??? I’m hopeless!!! I’m leaking from my eyes over your words and my mouth from your pictures. And I agree with Lisa. I’m fortunate to have two wonderful sisters.

  5. Uncle Dick says:

    You shared the celebration of your wedding in Harbor Springs with so many of us who love you and now you have allowed a wonderfull moment of allowing us to share in some of the unexpected heartbreak resulting from that union and the familial healing. “And this too shall pass.” I can just taste those blueberry cobblers. Yum! Much Love, Uncle Dick

  6. Paula says:

    You write beautifully, Maureen!

    I wish I had a sister when I divorced, but this is another story.

    God bless her.

    Take my hand, the best is yet to come.

  7. Janene says:

    Beautifully done, my friend. I had days like that also. Friends and family mean the world to me also.

  8. Jeanne Barr says:

    I have goosebumps. No tears, but goosebumps.
    You always hit a nerve with me. Usually a funny-bone nerve and I laugh.
    This one goes deep. And thank you for the emotion.
    It was my good fortune to meet Peg, and when you write about her, I can picture her.
    You two beautiful sisters. I am blessed with my sister Diane.
    I know she is reading this, too, as she visits Torch Lake.
    So which do I make first, the blueberry cobbler or the St. Germain Cocktail.
    It’s 11:20 a.m. in San Francisco and I’m inclined to go with the cocktail.
    Let’s meet in Chicago late fall/early winter? And celebrate. Warm hugs…….

  9. Diane Nassir (My maternal grandmother was an Abowd) says:

    Maureen, I love all the posts above, they say just what I want to say. Coincidently, today, due to a family situation, I cried tears for the first time in two and one-half years–have not been physically able to cry since I had life-saving brain surgery–but today of all days, I finally did cry, and now I read your column, and yes, tears are flowing, once again, and I read your column out loud to my dear, sweet husband, as I wished to share your emotions and your exquisite writing with him. You are so beautiful, inside and out.

  10. What a beautiful, and insightful story.

  11. Gerald Wakeen says:

    “while the rest of the world goes about its business”

    That is twice TODAY that the same thought has been presented to me! A friend emailed a long collection of inspirational thoughts earlier today and this one stood out for me:

    “I Believe…That no matter how bad your heart is broken,
    the world doesn’t stop for your grief.”

    It is true that one of the deepest “hurts” is that the world just keeps going on. Another friend said to me one time that “the sun will rise tomorrow just like it always does”, I didn’t appreciate it at the time but he was correct. Of course there are other similar sayings but none ever seem to hit the mark or help much.

    Perhaps a prayer and time will help. I, and others I am sure, will say a prayer!
    best, Jerry

  12. Alicia says:

    This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Everything about it sings the beautiful relationship you and Peggy have. Thank you for sharing this– thank you so much!

  13. Michele says:

    Thank you for sharing this painful and beautiful story…Thank God for sisters! You and Peg are blessed with the best! X O

  14. Patricia Abood says:

    Thank you, dear Maureen, for sharing your exquisitely beautiful story of your sorrow; and how I thank and love our sweet Peggy for being there for you. We all shared your sorrow, but none of us could be there
    as she was, knowing just what to say and do. I love you both! Always, Aunt Pat
    (I was deeply touched as well by the responses of your readers – what a treasure for you to have such a
    following of people who care!)

  15. Margy says:

    This is what blogs are for….thanks for sharing such a lovely story and such a beautiful tribute to sisters.
    Yala…haram…

  16. Gisele Fergus says:

    where does one begin when the hearts hurts of other’s penetrate us to the very core. I’ve come to realize that it is in fact a very good thing, even though it doesn’t always appear that way with the added weight. But it signals in us that we indeed are the Children of God and He holds our hearts in His hands. Hurt is a two fold promise, we feel pain yet the healing grows us and in return frees us. I too have waited to long for the love and care of another to make my life complete. After 33 years, I have broken the chain that held me back from TRUE happiness. Cooking and baking I believe are God’s way of saying and showing that something so “raw” (the bleeding heart and the wounds that it leaves), when baked and the correct temperature and more importantly time, (the healing process), bring about something wonderful and flavorful. And the “finished process” is something so worth waiting for.

  17. Maili Halme says:

    Maureen,

    I’ve loved your writing and your recipes since Hollye Jacobs first told me about you. For some reason I didn’t know that we shared this same sadness and trauma of divorce. I wept reading this. I couldn’t even cook for three months after my divorce because food was the connecting thing that had brought my husband and I together. I had met my husband Easter weekend and felt that as I sat next to him in church on Easter Sunday that certainly this man must be a gift from God. When I married him a year later I thought our shared faith would bless the marriage and make it strong. Then we had a shared love of food as well. The woman who set us up on our blind date was his cooking teacher. One of our first dates was at the CIA in New York. Food was an enormous bond in our marriage. I was a strong successful woman with many friends. I had a greater support system than most people can ever imagine. Yet the divorce almost destroyed me. I was so worried for my children. Everything I had believed in seemed upside down. It was my sister and mother who came to help me move when I decided the girls and I had to leave. And even though I knew so many people it was only my sister and my mother than I could be with up on the top of this hill in safety while I tried to heal. How beyond Blessed I am to have them in my life. Thank you for writing this.

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Maili, I’m so touched to read all of this, thank you so much for sharing…I look forward to the day our paths cross in person so I can give you a big hug and we can have a long talk. You are quite a woman, and a mother, sister, and daughter. And such a talent in the kitchen! I send you that hug, to a kindred spirit.

  18. Sarah Chan says:

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story Maureen. I think in life changing and heart breaking situation like the one you described we always gain something significant…..we just don’t realize it at that very moment.

  19. tammy says:

    mo <3 i watched you & your family that day …… as i served food made with love & shared with love. i remember your brother's toast to the baby girl, the princess they all adored & the trouble your brothers would get in for treating the princess not so princess like ;) the entire day was filled w/love, the promises of a new beginning while embracing all that brought you & your family to this moment. i remember the champagne & the beautiful wedding cake centerpieces. i remember your mom, your dad, your brother, the LOVE that no mere tents could hold…..and now? i know you in this new life mo & i feel all the love in your life even more so than that magical day oh so many moons ago ;) ))

    • Maureen Abood says:

      That is beautiful Tammy, and so special to me that you remember that day in such a remarkable way. Thank you so much; I’m so moved by your words!

 

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