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Fresh fruit is an immaculate gift. The gentle resistance of a cherry's skin beneath the teeth; the dense crispness of an apple; the coy seduction of the fig. Fruit is the original fast food--ready and nutrient-dense, thoroughly pluckable, and easy to love.

So, now that you've got those perfectly ground, formed, and cooked burgers on the platter with the requisite veggies, how can you make those patties sing? A cheese plate with a few out-of-the-ordinary choices is a welcome addition.

My mother is one of those domestic goddess types. In addition to having a full-time job, she raised three girls (and is still raising the youngest of the three of us), cooked breakfast and dinner almost every day, kept a clean house, and has been an active member of her church for as long as I can remember.

"The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price...But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought."

                                    --Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Just at the end of elderberry season, I found my Great White Whale. It was right in front of my nose.

It's hard to complain about okra. But its virtues--prolific growth and sauce-thickening ooze-- can create resentment. The plants just won't quit producing, and in such quantities! Many busy gardeners end up letting their okra go to seed because they simply can't keep up with picking it or find a place to fit so much okra into their diet.

When most people think "pie," they think about fruit. And to be fair, just about the only way to improve fresh fruit is to bake it. Just about the only way to improve pie is to put fruit in it. The two were quite possibly made for one another, and I was definitely made to consume pie. It's a match made in some celestial kitchen!

In the South, pimiento cheese is a birthright.

Our first guest blog ever on The Joy Kitchen is by Marisa McClellan, who blogs at and who recently published a book by the same name.