Although I have lived in the Midwest for five years, this is the first summer I have spent away from my hometown of Miami. When you grow up in a place where the average temperature is always 80+ degrees and beach-going vacationers abound year-round, there’s just not as much excitement surrounding the summer months. But here in Midwest, I’ve noticed summer takes on an entirely different meaning. It is celebrated as a precious time where the weather is predictably warm. Countless outdoor festivals and festivities make for endless, often free, entertainment. The lakefront, which not long ago was frigid and ferociously wavy, invites beach-goers into its refreshing waters (I must admit my ocean-jaded self was impressed by the niceness of Lake Michigan!). Best of all, summer produce is abundant, not only in stores, but in farms just a short drive outside the city of Chicago.
Two weekends ago, I had what has thus far been one of my most treasured Midwest summer experiences: blueberry picking in Michigan. This was not only my first time in Michigan, it was also my first time blueberry picking. I was determined to make the most of this new experience, so with a big white bucket hung around my neck, I immersed myself in the blueberry bushes, using both hands to pluck the juicy blue gems off their branches and letting a more than justifiable amount of berries find their way straight into my mouth rather than into my pail. I emerged with three pounds of the plumpest, freshest blueberries I had ever tasted, and with all sorts of plans for what they’d become.
To be honest, they were so delicious in their natural state that I ended up enjoying the bulk of them raw. But, luckily, I had a worthy cause to motivate me to incorporate them into a baked good. Alyssa, one of my closest friends and college roommates, was having a birthday, and even though we now live 1,000 miles away, I still wanted to send her a token of my love.
Given the abundance of this fresh fruit and Alyssa’s love for all things lemon, I knew there was no better way to wish her a happy birthday than in the form of a blueberry lemon loaf. I had to use every ounce of restraint to package it up without snagging a bite, so I can only tell you that it smelled heavenly while baking, but I’ll let Alyssa’s expression provide a testament to the taste.