With summer holidays comes more boys, with boys come more appetites. And what to do when their friends call over? Feed them. Ah, but I love it. Boys are great fun when you know how to channel their energy; they spend the summer outdoors playing football, soldiers, swinging, fighting, jumping on hay bales and thus running up a ferocious appetite. So the challenge is to feed them and entertain them or do both at the same time.
One day this week, I put six boys out the door and up the field in search of blackberries.
‘Take your time.’ I said. ‘Make sure and get good ones’ I said knowing full well that blackberries had only started ripening on the ditches this past week and they might be a while. A good cuppa of coffee worth of time. Give a group of boys a mission and it becomes competitive. They’ll do their best they say and walk up the field armed with a little bowl each with the eldest carrying the metal pot to put the full collection into. They look determined, hungry, rearing for blackberries. With the little pot they’ll be able to score their ability to collect as many while the metal pot allows them to hear the plop plop plop as each blackberry hits the bottom of the saucepan.
After some fifteen minutes my army of blackberry pickers arrive back into the back kitchen to me with a miserable collection of berries; their faces smeared with a familiar purple syrup.
‘And did you leave any for the crumble?’ I ask them. A few little shrugs.
‘I have the pastry ready!’ (that familiar Cork lilt raising at the end of the statement to assure my sons that their mother means business thus prompting them to lead their friends back up the field). Cruelty!
Going out the door, rallying his troops, my eldest assures the rest that his mom does make a very good crumble. ‘It will be worth it.’ he says dividing up the blackberry army again, urging them to keep the loot for the tin and not the tummies this time.
I return to the kitchen and in the time it takes to rub butter to flour, sugar, oats and a pinch of mixed spice, my boys are back to me with a more substantial offering.
‘It will do’, I tell them smiling, washing the blackberries and pouring them in over the pastry.
‘Off with ye, I’ll call when it’s ready.’
I hardly need to call them as they pace the back garden with the smell of the baking pastry and blackberries calling them.
‘Is it ready yet mom?’
“No, I said I’d call ye.’
There’s hardly time for the poor crumble to cool when there is a row of hungry boys before me salivating.
I ask Philip to call the men off the farm for the tea, I set a table for nine (!) and we sit down together and eat our blackberry and apple crumble with icecream and tea. There is little talk. There is oohing and ahhing while all these men and boys contemplate the just melting blackberries over buttery pastry, topped with crumble and vanilla ice-cream. There is hot tea. We’ve all worked hard today and the ditches did us proud providing us with a feast fit for a king or a table of hungry men, boys and yours truly.
A memorable blackberry and apple crumble; the stuff of summer holidays.