Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The importance of blueberries

Yesterday the children and I were reading, for the hundredth time, Little Cottontail. It's the story of a bunny who wants to be all grown up, but his mother says he must first learn many lessons. Among them:  how to wash himself, how to find food winter and summer, and how to avoid being caught by a fox.

We have often talked about that fox. Ask what he would do if he catches Little Cottontail, and ViMae says, "Chomp." We talk about children learning to watch for cars, to be careful when climbing, to listen when grownups warn them that something is dangerous.

We also talk about balance in nature. If the fox gets Little Cottontail, that's good for the fox, bad for the rabbit. If the rabbit eats the farmer's lettuce and carrots, good for the rabbit and bad for the farmer. ViMae once picked up a forkful of omelet and declared, "Good for me, bad for the egg."

Yesterday when we read that Little Cottontail's mother taught him to raid the farmer's vegetables and fruits, I made a comment, something like, "The farmer won't like it if the rabbits eat all his lettuce. We won't like it either, because we get our vegetables and fruit from the farmer."

Augie suddenly buried his head against me and wailed something about rabbits eating his blueberries. I thought he was joking, but then I realized he was crying real tears. I finally got it out of him: "I don't want the bunnies to eat all my blueberries." And then he was sobbing again.

I explained that the bunnies would never eat all the blueberries. I said bunnies don't even like blueberries. I said farmers have fences and other things to protect their crops. This boy who cheers for the bunny hero in a dozen different stories would pause for a moment and then cry again. "What if the bunnies eat all my blueberries!"

Here's the thing I didn't tell him. Blueberries are out of season, and they are getting very, very expensive. I still buy them because this boy loves them so, and because I have loved them ever since I was a child picking quarts of them alongside my family in the woods around our cabin. More recently I learned that blueberries are high in antioxidants, and they've even been called "brain food." That's an investment I'm willing to make.

In the summer when they are plentiful, we eat them by the handful with every meal. As they get more expensive we share a few with our oatmeal in the morning. But in the coldest months, when blueberries get to be $5 for a few ounces, I usually don't buy them.

Until now, that is. I may cut back on something else, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to be buying blueberries on a regular basis.


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