(These come from one of my favorite books as a child, Jamberry by Bruce Degen. Beeteedubs, we actually did read this book while enjoying our Blackberry Festival!! :D )
When I was between the ages of 8 and 12, I lived in a little town called Sutherlin, Oregon. In this town, blackberries grew wild and out of control. We lived next to a big deserted field at one point, and I remember often as a child crawling through the thorny blackberry patches til I found a good spot in the middle where I could just sit and pick wonderfully fresh blackberries all around me. I had self-crowned myself Princess of the Blackberry Bushes. This is one of my most fond memories! And every year in this town in early August, they had a Blackberry Festival. I remember the big parade most of all, though I think the annual Blackberry Festival coincided with the County Fair, because my memories seem to mesh the town parade and celebrations with fairgrounds and carnival games and roller coaster rides.
Since that time, I haven't lived in a place where blackberries existed like they did there. People don't seem to understand when you tell them their berries suck, and since you're from Oregon you know what you're talking about. Unless you've picked fresh berries in Oregon, you really have no idea what a berry should taste like. Not even you, Northern California. Not even close. And don't get me started on Utah.... But one extremely delightful thing about living in England is that the climate is very similar to the valley of Oregon, which means...lots of wild blackberries!!!!! I've taken my flatmate from Japan out blackberry picking with me several times, and she has fallen in love with blackberries. We've made pies, scones, jars and jars of jam and some cobbler. But then we decided it was time for bigger and better things. We were going to have our very own Blackberry Festival!!!
For our Blackberry Festival, we wanted to have an entire meal where every dish had blackberries in it. Our menu ended up as such:
Chicken with a Blackberry Sweet & Sour Sauce
Meatballs with a Blackberry BBQ Sauce
Blackberry, Brie and Fennel Pizza
Blackberry Spinach Salad with Feta and Almonds
Rolls with Whipped Blackberry Honey Butter
Blackberry, Pineapple and Peach Smoothie
Blackberry Meringue Desserts
Blackberry Rhubarb Crisp
Needless to say, it was quite a divine spread! We picnicked out in the park, read Jamberry and played some football. Balloons were present, people dressed for the occasion, and blackberries were celebrated in the most glorious of ways!
One really neat thing we realized later by accident was that during this time in Japan, they have their annual Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, where they remember those who were affected by the dropping of the atomic bomb. My flatmate and I commented on how special it was that on that same day, we were having a picnic in England with an American, a Japanese, a German and a Chinese, all of whom are wonderful friends. This seemed like the perfect celebration of peace and friendship!