Good enough to eat

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by Kelly Pontsler, Major –

My summer ended with three glorious, uninterrupted weeks of vacation. I needed them! Having bounced from thing to thing and event to event since the beginning of the year, I was truly ready to disappear and slow down.

My friend Jane and I set off on a week of camping. We consider ourselves stouthearted women and knew we were up to the challenge! We had made reservations for two nights on the central Oregon coast and then another four nights in the redwoods along the northern California coast. On the appointed day, we packed our gear (and lots of firewood!) into the car, and off we went.

We made very few plans for the week, simply agreeing that we would ease into the day slowly (with a cup of coffee next to the fire), do one activity each morning (a walk or a drive to a local site) and enjoy the luxury of a nap every afternoon. It was a great plan—and we followed it to the letter!

Early September is a great time to go camping! Campgrounds are quiet, the days are still pretty warm but the nights are already cooling off. The first morning, we decided to walk down to the beach and stroll along the water. We listened to the sounds of the water lapping gently at the sand and rocks, and watched the gulls floating on the water in the inlet. We couldn’t see more than a few dozen yards because of the low hanging clouds, so it felt a bit eerie and mysterious. It didn’t take long for us to see all there was to see, so we walked back towards the campground.

Near the main entrance, we noticed some blackberry bushes filled with what appeared to be ripe, juicy berries. Being adventurous souls, we wondered if there was some way we could make berry cobbler. We tossed the idea around, and decided to give it a try. Well, I will tell you right up front that this was not one of our better culinary moments of the week!

We picked some berries, rinsed them off and divided them into four small aluminum loaf pans. Jane sprinkled on a bit of sugar and I stirred up some biscuit mix to dollop on top. As we didn’t have an oven, we decided the “foil dinner” method was our best bet. I got the fire going, and Jane wrapped the pans of fruit in more aluminum foil (crimping down the sides very thoroughly). We put the foil packages inside the campfire ring, around the edges of the actual fire. And then we waited.

After about 10 minutes, we decided to see if anything was happening. Nothing was. They were as cold and gooey as when we started. So on to plan B. We pushed them closer in to the fire. Waited a bit, then checked again. Still nothing. OK—plan C. The foil packets went into the fire! Then things started to happen! The sizzling and popping noises were a sure sign that great moments of delight were just ahead! We left them to cook while we prepared our dinner, anticipating that the cobbler would be ready in time for dessert.

The moment of truth finally arrived and we pulled the cobbler from the fire. We lined the four little bundles up on the table and open them up. What we found inside was very suspicious looking: a lumpy, doughy fruit blob in the middle and burned to a crisp on the edges. Nevertheless, we decided a taste test was in order!

One bite was MORE than enough! Our faces could not have puckered up any faster if they had been pulled with a drawstring! Our gorgeous berries were downright sour! Talk about disappointment! We tossed the whole thing into the trash and had a laugh. So much for campfire cooking!

We decided later that our biggest error wasn’t so much the lack of any cooking technique. We just should have taken the time to taste the berries before we started—to be sure that the inside was as good as the outside.

During that week a phrase from Scripture floated through my mind: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We have a natural human tendency to place a lot of importance on the packaging—the cover of the book, the outside appearance of another person. It can be deceptive—and the incongruence of the inside and outside can catch us by surprise. But the Lord, our creator and Heavenly Father, is absolute perfection, inside and out. I am so glad to know that truth!

My last few days of vacation were spent back in San Francisco. One afternoon I visited the de Young museum. You will understand the context for my burst into laughter when I turned the corner into room 25. There on the wall was a small painting by Raphaelle Peale. The subject? Blackberries. I tell you the truth—they looked good enough to eat!

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