No Blueberry Left Behind

Michigan's annual blueberry festival features the fruit beer, pancakes, beef jerky, and more.

Photos by (clockwise from top left) atul666, love_janine, rubber slipppers in Italy, faeryboots/Flickr CC

I love a blueberry in uniform, so of course I was disappointed that, due to severe thunderstorms and flooding, this year's Blueberry Festival parade had to be canceled. But other than that, the 46th annual Blueberry Festival in South Haven, Michigan was pretty darn fabulous. Four days of blueberry treats, fresh from the farm and the oven; blueberry-related events like a Blueberry Social and a Blueberry Pancake breakfast; the presentation of the 2009 Blueberry Queen and her court: king, prince, princess, and Little Miss and Mister Blueberry. (Frankly, I thought it was a missed opportunity not to have had a few adorable Blueberries-in-Waiting, but that's just a minor quibble from a Royal Watcher.) Oh, and I have to admit I was puzzled by a dizzying mechanical bull ride that seemed to have no connection whatsoever to the festival. Black and blueberry?

I'm from New York so perhaps I should have directed my questions to a "Michigander" (that's what a native is called). And then he or she could have answered another question: doesn't "Michigander" imply male? Shouldn't there be a female counterpart, and would that be "Michigoose"? Then, would the plural for that be "Mishigas?" Or would "Mishigas" be a group of hungry Ann Arborites waiting for their sandwiches at the Zingerman Deli?

Over the weekend, "Sure, I'll try that" and "Who knew?" became my mantras.

Thanks to my (so confusing--is this term right?) Michigeese family (daughter, granddaughter, son-in-law, and in-laws), I found out that South Haven, the town where we were staying, is situated in Michigan's Fruit Belt and is the highbush blueberry capital of the world. I don't know the lowbush capital, and no one else did either. As luck would have it, we were vacationing in South Haven the week of the festival. And I quickly discovered how incredibly creative local cooks and bakers are when it comes to small blue berries.

For the first time, I truly understood the meaning of the expression "be fruitful and multiply." Sure, I'll try that. A blueberry doughnut, a blueberry muffin, blueberry upside-down cake, blueberry coconut cake with whipped cream, a blueberry scone with blueberry jam, Blueberry Fields Iced Tea, blueberry-glazed chicken with blueberry barbecue sauce, blueberry walnut dip mix, dark chocolate blueberry truffles, blueberry pie, blueberry honey, blueberry muffin mix, blueberry lemonade, blueberry pancake mix, blueberry salsa, blueberry tarts, blueberry lollipops, blueberry hot cocoa, blueberry caramels, blueberry brats, blueberry mustard sauce, blueberry smoothies, lemon blueberry muffins, blueberry pecan maple granola mix, blueberry cherry juice, blueberry cream cheese fudge, dried blueberries, chocolate covered blueberries, blueberry syrup, blueberry ice cream with blueberry Amaretto sauce, white chocolate blueberry covered pretzels, blueberry beef jerky. Let's just say, "no blueberry left behind."

Over the weekend, "Sure, I'll try that" and "Who knew?" became my mantras. Who knew Lake Michigan had waves, who knew that there was a store that only sold blueberries and blueberry-related products, who knew you could start your morning with a hot cup of blueberry coffee? Who knew it was undrinkable? Who knew that biting into just one kernel of blueberry caramel popcorn gave you a 50 percent chance of losing a filling and 100 percent chance of having a blue tongue? Who knew what a sweet and cheerful experience a small town celebration could be?

A glass of Michigan blueberry wine--sure, I'll try that. And I'd like to propose a toast: to all the dedicated Fruit Belt cooks and bakers who have ennobled the humble blueberry and taken it where it has never gone before. With all due respect, maybe it shouldn't go any farther. Don't waste a minute trying to figure out how to stuff a blueberry, brew blueberry beer, or make blueberry Huevos Rancheros for next year's festival. And you might--I mean this with all due respect--want to start a petition to recall the "blueberry beef jerky", an idea whose time will never come. But let's raise our blue glasses and look forward to getting together next August 12th! Blueberries rock! Who knew?