Every year during cherry season I am reminded of my very first job, the summer I was fourteen. While friends from middle school were lining up baby sitting gigs or packing their rucksack for a counselor-in-training position at a camp down by the lake, I was picking cherries. There was a cherry orchard just up the road from my school, right on the main drag, and anyone who could produce a farm worker card could pick cherries to be sold at the farm stand or wholesale to local grocery stores, paid by the bucket. For the first few weeks of the summer, I climbed trees for my pocket money. Eventually the cherries were harder to glean, and I had to rely upon ten-foot high ladders and a manual cherry-picker, really just a bucket with a rake at one end of a long stick. By the end of the season the farm upped my payment per bucket, but the time it took to fill it meant I was making even less than those first few glorious days, back before I started dreaming about cherries I had stared at so many, before my legs and arms were covered in scrapes from the rough bark I scaled, before I had my fill of cherries for breakfast and lunch and mid-afternoon snack.
This year – like most years – I bought a bag a cherries as soon as I could find them. The price is always a bit steep, but I know the work that goes into picking them. This year, in addition to popping a few in my mouth every so often, I have been making the following cherry-almond quinoa for breakfast. Maybe a bit more fancy than I had them back when I was fourteen, but the cherries are just as delicious.
Cherry Almond Quinoa
Usually when I cook up quinoa, I make more than I need to have extra around for a few more meals. For this single-serving dish, I scoop a half cup or more of cooked quinoa into a bowl, manually pit about 10 cherries and add them to the quinoa, and grate some fresh nutmeg on top. Then I add a small handful of slivered almonds, a drizzle of local honey or maple syrup, and wet it all down with milk. I heat just a tad, maybe to room temp, and enjoy.