I love the fresh, dark sweet cherries of summer. This time of year, when the ruby-hued fruit from Washington is toppled into huge bins in grocery stores, long slender stems going this-away, that-away, I just can’t resist them — no matter the price. And, the price is high when you choose organic cherries. So, I buy them in small quantities, bring them home and savor each luscious orb of succulence.
This morning, though, I have gained even stronger appreciation for each cherry I slip into my mouth.Â I was tuned into NPR in the car as Gracie and I were heading home from the kennel this morning, where she spent her Saturday while I was cooking at the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes. As I listened, Anna King did a short piece about migrant workers from Mexico who have discovered that picking cherries is one of the best-paying agriculture jobs in the northwest. As the men and women perch themselves on ladders raised high up into trees heavily laden with cherries, they learn to become adept at quickly and carefully picking and dropping as many cherries as they can into their buckets. They are not paid an hourly wage. They are paid by the amount of cherries they pick. As the listener is hearing the sound of melodious voices of migrant workers singing in Spanish, a slight cry breaks in as a young woman falls from her ladder. It’s alarming.
When the NPR piece ends, I begin to wonder what it’s like to live the life of a migrant cherry-picker. Little things come to mind. Must they worry about getting stung by bees as they climb their ladders and disappear into a lush mass of leaves and ripe cherries? Do they itch with sweat, but don’t dare take time to wipe their brow, that moment or two keeping a few cherries from the bucket? How many have had to overcome a fear of heights in order to take this good-paying job? And, is this “best-paying” agriculture job actually paying these hard-working migrants a fair wage? If so, I won’t mind as much having to pay a high price for this summer fruit that I love. And, I will appreciate the laborious work of the migrants who have made it possible for me to enjoy Washington cherries in my Minnesota kitchen.
After a morning walk with Gracie, constantly swatting away pesky deer flies buzzing around my head, I was ready for a piece of moist and spicy Cherry Cake with a good cup of coffee. I could hear those melodious voices singing songs in Spanish each time a cherry half burst with juice on my tongue.
And, I wonder, do the migrant cherry pickers have to deal with deer flies? Oh, I certainly hope not.
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup pitted sweet cherries, halved
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13- x 9-inch baking pan. Set aside.
Stir baking soda into buttermilk. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add buttermilk mixture. Beat well.
Sift flour with allspice and cloves. Stir into creamed mixture, blending well. Stir in cherries. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake tests done. Makes 12 to 15 servings.