Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wife Rule #59: Taste the Shake

Summer is finally here again.

True, it has been in the high nineties for a couple of weeks now, but I know it's summer with certainty, because tonight we made the official First Raspberry Shake Of The Season. This shake was the fruits of several days' labor. Our raspberry bushes only began to produce about a week ago at a rate of about twenty berries per day. So my kids have been learning the joy of anticipation as they have carefully squirreled away each day's handful into a plastic cup in the refrigerator for safe keeping.

Tonight the cup reached the magic half-full mark, and the shake was on! While the kids watched eagerly, I carefully gathered ingredients. Three large scoops vanilla ice cream, a half-cup milk, and one large banana, brown-speckled to sugary perfection, went into the blender first. Next came three scoops of raspberry and lime sherbet, carefully extracted from the rainbow sherbet to avoid orange flavor contamination. Then a big, juicy peach, just slightly overripe, followed by a large cup of crushed ice to thicken the mixture.

And then comes the defining magic ingredient, the cup of fresh raspberries which was hand-picked with joy all week long, by four enthusiastic shake connoisseurs. These are always added very last, and blended at slow speed with great vigilance to ensure that the blending is just long enough for the berries to sink down the thick vortex in the center of the blender. I turn it off immediately when I see the deep purple pigments penetrate to the edges. This ensures that many individual packets of blood-red juice will remain intact, chilled to perfection and broken only by teeth and tongue as the shake is slowly sipped and savored.

And that's just how a homemade raspberry shake was meant to be eaten: slowly, carefully, deliberately. You see, it's more than just the fresh raspberries that sets this shake apart from your typical soft-serve, artificially-flavored, fast-food imitation. Those shakes are meant to be served in Super-Sized cups and gulped down quickly before your mouth has a chance to taste and your stomach has a chance to tell your brain that it's overstuffed.

No, in a homemade shake, the cups are small and rich, for the raspberries are not the only source of flavor. Each small sip should rest on the tongue, and if you pay attention, you can discern all the components. The distinctive scent of creamy vanilla. The sugary background flavor and velvety smoothness of the banana. The hint of tartness and texture from the peach. The sweetness of the sherbet. And the delightfully round raspberry seeds, each wrapped in a tangy burst of intense flavor that lingers on the teeth long after the sip is swallowed.

Kids somehow naturally know the proper way to enjoy such a masterpiece as a homemade raspberry shake. Their lives are slower, their pleasures simpler, and their rewards fuller. Unfortunately, it seems that as we grow older, taking the time and effort to enjoy such delights becomes more challenging. There's always some thing that has to be done, some place to hurry off to. We resort to fast food and empty calories.

But tonight, we sat at the table together for a long time, with little sound except sips from straws, smacks of cold lips, and satisfied sighs.

I have noticed that my relationship with my wife is similar. When we first started dating, joyful anticipation dominated our thoughts. Every step we took together, like individual berries dropping into the cup, was exciting. Small incremental progress towards our Big Goal was enough to keep our spirits high.

So we planned carefully and gathered the best ingredients for our future that we could find. And the culmination of our efforts, the initial blending of our lives when we married, was like a dream. We were two young kids, savoring each sip of the raspberry shake we had made together, enjoying it fully. We could taste the fruits of our careful preparations, and it was effortlessly wonderful.

But as time went on, we both noticed that it took more and more conscious thought to enjoy each other the way we used to. We probably resorted to fast-food togetherness at times, merely surviving as the chores stacked up, the bills multiplied, and our easy time, our effortless enjoyment time, slipped away.

But there's good news: we have redoubled our efforts in recent years. We try to work together whenever possible. We pay through the nose for babysitters to allow us our alone time. We stay up a little later, just talking and being together in the quietude that only settles on our house after the kids fall asleep. And most importantly, we try to consciously recognize the goodness we have together, to taste the individual ingredients that make our lives together so rich.

As I have savored our relationship, I have noticed that there is much more depth and richness to my wife than I realized at the start. There are more than just raspberries in this shake. I sense the mighty strength that comes through her devotion to God. I see how her selflessness has blossomed in the service of motherhood. I understand so much better now her tremendous talents in leadership. I marvel how she excels both in producing and appreciating art and culture, making our home a lovely place to live and filling our lives with richness.

And as for Love, the defining ingredient, the one I knew we could never do without: I can say that our love for each other runs deeper, entwines us tighter, and ennobles our spirits far more than it did at the start. True, the easy times are in the past, but they were by no means the best times. After ten years, we understand what life together means now, and we have learned to savor it, to taste it, to appreciate all of its ingredients.

Just like a raspberry shake.


Alisa said...

Sounds perfect and delicious. You may have heard my diatribe against what is commonly passing for a "shake" nowadays--basically a half gallon of blended soft-serve ice cream. It's not a liquid (it doesn't even have milk in it), and it's so huge.

I much prefer what you describe. The home-grown nature, plus the anticipation.

Jenny and Al said...

Mmm, I want some!