Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fragile as a cherry blossom

Chapter 8 of Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins starts with a charming personal anecdote:
I was driving through the English countryside with my daughter Juliet, then aged six, and she pointed out some flowers by the wayside. I asked her what she thought wildflowers were for. She gave a rather thoughtful answer. ‘Two things,’ she said. ‘To make the world pretty, and to help the bees make honey for us.’ I was touched by this and sorry I had to tell her that it wasn't true.
Today, here in my Gamone wonderland, if I were conversing with a Juliet, I would ask her why the cherry tree has flowers.

And why are the cherry blossoms so light and fragile? There today and gone tomorrow. I don't imagine (although I may be wrong) that the flowers remain intact for long enough to interest passing insects.

Yesterday, a strong breeze sprung up at Gamone, and the cherry blossoms disappeared within 20 minutes. Afterwards, their petals were strewn across the grassy slopes and the roadway like vegetal dandruff. Dawkins's daughter might have explained that the ephemeral cherry blossoms were put there by God's angels to remind people who are fond of cherries (such as me) that there'll soon be a great crop of fruit.

Incidentally, last year, I put a big bag of cherries in the deep freezer, to see how they might survive. Well, once they're thawed out, they're a little lifeless, naturally, and their red color has changed to brown. Their texture is altered, too, as if they might have been cooked. But their taste remains excellent. And it's nice to be able to savor last year's cherries at the end of winter.

I might receive a technical reaction to this blog post from my old friend Bruce Hudson in Young, Australia. Farmers of Young are apparently some of the world's leading producers of cherries. On the other hand, I've never heard whether these Young folk know the secrets of distilling cherries to produce the 48° alcohol called kirsch, which happens to be the specialty of the Guilhermet family in St-Hilaire-du-Rosier (Ratafia variety of cherries), 20 minutes down the road from Gamone.

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