When I first moved to Berkeley — in the early 1980s — my roommates at the time were old (in their late twenties) and sophisticated (they knew their way around an artichoke). They shopped at this place they referred to as “the Bowl.” I imagined it was named after a big bowl of fruit, because that is what they usually brought home after they went shopping. They also brought home this wonderful cheese I’d never heard of before. It was called Havarti.
Berkeley was a paradise in those days. Now you can buy havarti at Costco, so paradise is more widely available in America, which can only be a good thing. I mean, even in this wretched economy, you can still afford the occasional good thing to eat and you have a much better chance of being able to find it than you did in the early 1980s. Cheese has a way of making the worst things seem a little bit better. At least that is what we believe here in Berkeley, which is why I live here.
Anyway, it turned out that the Berkeley Bowl was actually an old bowling alley that had been turned into a fruit and vegetable market which also sold cheese (at a long, exciting cheese counter) meat, seafood and, sort of as an aside, things like recycled paper towels and earthy moisturizers made by people who lived in Ukiah. To successfully shop there you really did have to have some skills, just not with a bowling ball. Basically, you had to be aggressive with your shopping cart, and willing to snatch fruit out of the hands of elderly ladies who wanted it too. But you’d go cart-to-cart with these ladies because you wanted those raspberries MORE, having grown up in a place where fruit (and tomatoes!) just did not taste so real, and fresh and amazing, thus making your desire for them really strong. At the time, I didn’t have a car, so I had no idea the real challenge of shopping at the Berkeley Bowl was finding a place to put it.
And now there is a SECOND bowl in Berkeley. It opened today (it is called “Berkeley Bowl West”) and it amazes me that this could be so — mostly because this means there will FINALLY be a place to park at the Berkeley Bowl in my neighborhood because all the shoppers who wanted my parking spot will be at Berkeley Bowl West. And I will not have to get into unseemly altercations near the apricots to score the perfect ones that have my name on them. Still, in honor of the time that has passed since I first discovered havarti and artichokes, the Bowl in my neighborhood is now called the Old Bowl. (At least that is what I’m calling it.) I am now the old lady you have to face down to get to the apricots first. (I will add that I am not really that old, and I imagine the ladies I thought were so old probably weren’t either. It’s funny how perception depends a lot on where you stand.)
Summer’s almost here. Three years ago, when I was just beginning to write this blog, I was up to my arms in raspberries, making jam. A day or two after I wrote about that, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I haven’t boiled fruit and sugar together since then. This is to say that my hiatus from jam is over. Raspberries at the Old Bowl were .99 a basket when I was there tonight — I swear to God. And the apricots, which are slightly more expensive, are so beautiful this year.
This weekend, it’s jam time.