Acceptance Speech on Behalf of the Preserves Category, Good Food Awards 2016
By: Audra Query Lawlor
The Orcas Pear, named after the island I call home in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, is not much of a keeper, but it’s beautiful, with a pale yellow skin, burnished pink from the sun’s gaze. The flavor is honeyed with just the right finish of acid, and the smallest hint of the salt and earth from where it came.
It is what orchardists refer to as a roadside varietal- a strain of pear that fought vigorously to adapt and survive, and cultivated itself to thrive in the salty Salish air, cool climate, and constant breeze, over many, many years.
We have a deep orchard legacy on our island. We produced endless bushels of Bartlett Pears, Italian Plums, & King Apples in the early 1900s: crated off in boats across the sea to nourish early city dwellers, the plums dried to prunes in now fallen down sheds, the pears eaten by little hands, sticky with syrup.
Those times have gone and passed but the orchards remain– the remaining tracts of 100-year old gnarled trees in full bloom a sight to behold.
Just shy of 10 years in Manhattan, I walked away from a Wall Street career and city life with a new husband and two dogs to head West. Life in a farmhouse down a one-lane road hasn't been all primroses. I’ve watched a lot of things grow – and subsequently die back. It’s made the pain of growing and the challenges of starting a family, of which we've had many, more palatable. But the fruit keeps coming back, year after year. In a bad season, the trees dig deeper into the earth – they adapt – to bring us their bounty. The sweetness has brought untold joy--carried me through 3 seasons, 5 miscarriages, and launched a business.
I am deeply grateful to work in this field, with such talented, creative individuals who respect terroir and the lessons of the garden, farm, and orchard. I stood in my kitchen the other day, spoon deep in a jar of jam in the middle of winter, giving tastes to my now 1-year old son. We cheers’d with our spoons --to the seasons changing, to barren branches, to buds, to blossoms, to fruit - to the harvest I thought would never come.
We are honored to have our craft recognized this evening by such an enviable organization, and a room full of people whom we admire. As preserve makers, we tend to believe in magic- the alchemy of copper pot, sugar, and fruit. But it’s the fruit that’s full of magic, telling a tale of the past we can only imagine- filling our bellies and giving us hope, for a bountiful future. Thank you, from the believers in magic, the rhythm watchers, the pickers, the jam makers who know that a piece of fruit can tell a tale taller than any of us.