Here in Scarlet Crescent, we have a very strange next door neighbor. She’s “The Cat Lady” to the extreme, caring for ALL the homeless cats the local shelter finds. In her one tiny house and yard, she probably has 20 – 30 cats at a time, most with ailments (i.e. one with a massive tumor on its side, one with only one eye, one with chronic sneezes, etc.). This neighbor’s yard is a mass of brambles that once were roses, vines, and various fruit bushes. They’ve grown over the top of her house and have covered any lawn furniture and a greenhouse that once dominated her garden. Now the fruit bushes are poking through the fence and coming over to our side.
I met the neighbor the other night as I was letting Georgie out for a wizz. She apologized for the state of her yard and said she’d normally cut the brambles back, but she has been much occupied with her ailing mother of late. However, she let me know that the “rules of the house” were that any raspberries that poked over onto our side of the fence belonged to us. “Aha!” I thought.
As everyone knows, though, it is very hard to only pick the fruit growing on your side of a chain-link fence when dozens more plump, juicy berries beckon from just inches away. Especially when you know their owner will never have time to pick them all and they will eventually fall to the ground, be covered in cat fur and foliage, and rot. So, even though we didn’t need any more raspberries than the ones our neighbor so generously offered, we’ve been squeezing our fingers through the fence whenever we can to rob the others within reach. Frank confessed that he and his siblings began this habit as children and were even scolded on occasion by the obliging neighbor.
The berries are lovely! I’ve made a preserves and have used them in several dishes, both sweet and savory. The other day, though, my conscience got the better of me and I whipped up a batch of these fantastic cupcakes, Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes, bringing a little box of them to our neighbor’s door as a thank you for her fruit… both given and forbidden!