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A new twist on fruit salad: a bouquet of the best of summer’s bounty

On the Road in America is an occasional column born of occasional travel. Every trip is a new experience or a meeting with other friends. This is a look into one small facet of my current journey.

A country wedding. Low key, informal. Good friends and neighbors invited. Held at home with sprawling lawns edged with Green Mountain forest and a wonderful view.

Though my friend Robin has known the bride, Nettie, for a lifetime, I met Nettie as a undergraduate at Goddard College in the 1990s. She’s the kind of woman whose beauty is not just external but radiates from within; her spirit is radiant, warm, loving. The kind of person everyone should have for a friend. We all wanted her wedding to be special.

So, even as we faced the challenge and choices of what to bring to this pot luck country wedding, Robin spotted a TV ad for a bouquet of fresh fruits. Clever. Cute. Little sculpted flowers and such.

“We can do that,” Robin said.

“Of course we can,” I echoed.

Neither of are daunted by anything we undertake. We scaled Machu Picchu together, and we fished for pirrahna in the Amazon together. We ate roasted guinea pig in Cusco Peru. So local food is a piece of cake… and we like good food (as well as food that is not always good for us).

We found a giant coffee cup planter at a Job Lot store and bought a half-round of floral foam (which we wrapped in layers of saran) to set inside as an “anchor” for the skewers.

We headed to Price Chopper (my favorite Vermont supermarket if you have to hit a chain store). Three melons. two pints of blueberries. Two pints of red raspberries. A bag each of green and red seedless grapes. Two cans of pineapple. A bag of red leaf lettuce with curly edges to border the rim of the cup. Bamboo skewers.

The day before the wedding, we spent hours scouring the hillsides around Woodbury collecting two carloads of wild flowers, delivered to the bride’s home where an army of friends gathered to arrange them in small and large bouquets, one for every table, including the three under the food tents.

On the morning of the wedding, Robin and I drove down her driveway to the steep edge of a spring-fed pond. She set her kayak in the water (no details for public consumption here) to collect waterlilies to float in the stone edged pond where the wedding would be. The pond and marsh was a sea of pristine white blossoms with bold sun yellow centers. She gather blossoms, buds and lily pads under an overcast sky. The vines tangled on the shoreline bore a striking resemblance to poison ivy — which is why we were barefoot and standing in it; we collected two five gallon pails of waterlilies. We didn’t get poison ivy.

Back at the house it was time to clean up, dry off and start the fruit basket. With assembly line precision and periodic sampling to make sure the well chilled fruit was perfect, we opted to top each skewer with colorful raspberries, alternating between the deep reds of the berries and grapes, the pale green of grapes and kiwi, the rich melon tones of cantaloupe and honeydews, big bold strawberries, and the golden hue of chunked pineapple.

We began at the outer edge, filling in that layer with identical skwers; leaving the melons for the interior.

Though we hadn’t planned it that way, the colors of the oversized coffee cup/planter (12″ diameter on the cup, 12″ height), the fruit colors were a perfect match — by accident or kharma.

We also made a bucket of herb-roasted chicken salad with dried cherries and almonds as a side dish.

The fruit bowl was, in a word, spectacular. Beyond our expectations. We had gone in to this project with the resolution that if it didn’t work, the whole mess could be dumped in a bowl and labeled “fruit salad” after the two of us.

As an array of food found its way to the serving tables, so did our fruit bowl. The sun emerged, burning through overcast morning to warm the grounds just in time for the ceremony. As the afternoon heat settled in, the bride and groom exchanged their vows. Family and friends gathered at tables, eating, talking, laughing, and offering best wishes to two beautiful people.

The sun set, and we straggled away, satiated, and happy.

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