When I say 'some', I mean 'enough to make a crumble to feed Warwickshire'.
It was a sunny evening. We sat at the garden table with the gooseberries in a giant bowl between us. 'I need to prepare these for the freezer,' he said. 'Do you want to help me get them done before we cook dinner?'
I stood up so that I could see him over the tower of fruit. 'No, I don't want to, particularly,' I said. 'But if I don't, I fear dinner will happen in the early hours of tomorrow morning.'
I sat down again, and began. He was using a tiny pair of scissors, but I was using my fingernails, which was quicker. Pick off the top. Pick off the tail. In the pan. Pick off the top. Pick off the tail. In the pan. Pick off the top. Pick off the t -
'This is a kind of hell,' I said, after half an hour. 'Did you hear Farming Today the other morning? They were saying that gooseberries were an unpopular dessert ingredient these days with Brits. I WONDER WHY.'
It's not only the hard work, though.
1. They're hairy. They remind me of cold-weather testicles. I told my husband this and he nearly cut off his thumb with the scissors.
2. They're sour, and the average crumble needs fourteen pounds of sugar to make up for it. Forget the sugar, and your face will look like a cat's arse for a week.
3. They're not unlike peeled lychees in their resemblance to eyeballs. (My husband preferred that comparison to the testicle one.)
4. Lots of people don't like them, so if you had eight people round for dinner, and had cooked a gooseberry crumble or pie, only two people would want it. 'A yoghurt, anyone? They're only just out of date.'
5. They go through the digestive system like a fast tube train through a tunnel with a stiff breeze behind it. I was going to say strong wind, but -
6. No one can agree how to say it. Some people say 'goozbree' and some people say 'guzbree' and others say 'goozberry'. I've also heard people call them 'goosegogs'. The world doesn't need any more conflict. Nobody has that trouble with 'plum'.
We were on gooseberry number 9,376,501 when my husband said, 'Why do people who feel left out say they're playing gooseberry?'
'When I've done another million,' I said, 'I'll look it up.'
Google came up with a very clear answer. 'No one really knows.' The most frequent idea was this, from DictionaryCentral.com:
Play gooseberry ‘be an uncomfortably superfluous third person with two lovers’ goes back to the early 19th century, and may have originated in the notion of a chaperone (ostensibly) occupying herself with picking gooseberries while the couple being chaperoned did what they were doing (gooseberry-picker was an early 19th-century term for a ‘chaperone’).
As for why they're even called 'goose' berries in the first place, Google doesn't know that either. My favourite etymological dictionary www.etymonline.com says helpfully, 'No part of the plant seems to suggest a goose.' This seems reasonable, although, do geese have testicles? Just saying.
Anyway, my husband says he's got three times the amount he brought home yesterday still on the allotment, waiting to be picked: enough to cure constipation in everyone in the whole wide world or ensure that no one ever comes here again for a dinner party.
|Next time, Fran would add the sugar to her dinner party crumble|