I lost my mind while studying for the bar. Sort of. For the uninitiated, bar study is a long, lonely process that readies you, in part, for the actual exam by making you so vomitously tired of the studying that you arrive on test day with a head so swimming with “let’s just do this thing” that you forget to be nervous.
One of the few unscripted days in our agenda that summer was July 4. Overwhelmed by the promise of an utterly free day, I decided to make things. Two things, to be exact. I made the chuppah for my wedding, and I made a fruit buckle. The former took about 14 hours that day, and another 20 hours the week before the wedding; the latter took about an hour and made for a lovely breakfast.
Even today, I can’t quite explain why I found it important, nay, necessary to make the canopy for our chuppah. Nor can I explain why I thought it would be a good way to learn to quilt. And, even when pressed, I come up completely empty-handed when it comes to explaining how my calculations that day resulted in a chuppah canopy that is substantially larger than a king-sized bed. Apparently, I wanted to make sure we had room to both get married and do the Highland Fling underneath its gentle, convex arc.
The ladies at the quilt shop were not particularly convinced that this project was going to be a success. I think I explained the whole venture about 8 times, though several of those iterations were spent describing How a Jewish Wedding Works to these septuagenarian Protestant women. In the end, we figured it out. They sent me on my way with a bag full of quilting tools, a bundle of gorgeous fabric, and good wishes underscored by a Germanic skepticism that’s undetectable to those who haven’t spent quality time in the Midwest. I still owe them a picture.
I think the fact that I stuck with the quilting until the end really illustrates the insanity that flourishes during bar study; when faced with a free day, I shunned the temptation of naps and television in order to work my fingers to the bone and give myself a neck cramp that lasted for the ensuing two months. Still, 14 episodes of Law & Order later (I studied for evidence by shouting out objections throughout the trial scenes), I had made enough progress in piecing together the quilt squares that turning back was impossible. It was a devil’s bargain, bound up in fat quarters of gold calico.
The buckle, on the other hand, was a no-brainer. As I have mentioned here before, my mom is an excellent cook. So when she calls me and says “I’m sending you a recipe; I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” I listen.
A buckle is characterized by a rich cake batter mixed with fruit, topped by more fruit and a crunchy streusel topping. Some variations involve spreading the cake batter over a layer of fruit at the bottom of the pan, but I prefer to fold the fruit into the cake. Blueberries are the classic buckle accompaniment, but wonderful things can come from using raspberries, huckleberries, blackberries - whatever suits you that happens to be fresh and in season. Somewhere, between the jammy layers of berries and the brown sugar splendor of the crumb topping, you’ll find a moment where you can’t help but furrow your brow and exclaim “Mmm! That is good.”