If John Lennon hadn’t written it, Roger Monroe would have had to. Maybe with a Pochedly on vocals or bass. Who better to whip up a little ditty about the most quintessential of spring/summer fruit? The fact that the song was written about a Salvation Army orphanage near Liverpool (U.K.) doesn’t disqualify it from being a fruit-growers anthem of sorts. The slightly-psychedelic nature of the lyrics could easily fit in with some of the sights to be seen in the strawberry patches of any pick-your-own fruit farm.
The number of long-suffering parents is a given (No matter that often quite a bit of their suffering is self-inflicted because of their earlier parenting practices.). Mom—or, more seldom, Dad—either thinks that (a) the kids will LOVE to get out in the fresh air and sunshine and stoop over for hours on end to harvest the tasty fruit or (b) there is no place to park the children while the sun shines and the fields are calling so they have to come along, come hell or high water (Hint: go with the first possibility) or (c) the kids think that this will be some sort of a lark wherein the plump red berries cha-cha into the containers and , like the “home where the buffalo roam”, “seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.” Riiiiight!
The invention of the Porta-Potty deserves a mention here, but that’s all it’s going to get. You don’t want to know how it has advanced the cause of civilization and hygiene in modern times really, you don’t.
The berries, it goes without saying, are generally just great. Simply getting strawberries that haven’t got more frequent flyer miles than we do is a good thing. You can smell them. On a good day at the supermarket you can tell if the stacks of plastic containers are worth even looking at if you can get a whiff of the fragrance (The botanical name is Fragraria x ananassa, a cross of Fragraria virginiensis and Fragraria chiloensis, replacing Fragraria vesca, the first cultivated strawberry in the 17th century. All clear now?). The name kind of gives away the whole ”If you can smell them, they are ripe,” thing. And all this from a fruit which, strictly speaking, is not a berry at all but an aggregate accessory fruit, the explanation of which is all about seeds and ovaries and stuff that would make your average sex education class scratch their pre-adolescent heads in wonderment.
Anyhow, here we are out in the strawberry patch and there are whole families with pans and buckets and baskets and every imaginable kind of container. Some of the kids are piping up to ask Mom or Grandma or whoever about the ripeness and/or suitability of every fruit they lay their hands on. Some of them are all about size; there are no prizes for picking the biggest one but there are, apparently, family bragging rights for having scarfed up what looks, to all intents and purposes, like a mutant red golfball. Some of them are busily, in the words of moms and grandmas and aunts forever, “spoiling your dinner.” Of these, some are bothered by the dirt and stop to hastily brush off the soil and straw and such, others blithely chomp them down without a thought, except, “Mmmm, good!” Some of the moms are dutifully trying to keep their offspring picking in the assigned row. Some of them didn’t listen themselves and don’t know exactly which is the assigned row. Sometimes everybody—Mom included—is wondering “Can we go home now?”. Mom doesn’t whine quite as much.
There are frequent discussions about what will become of the berries once they’ve been weighed, paid for and arrived at home. Pies, jam and occasionally jelly are mentioned, but the familiar favorite is strawberry shortcake. And that’s a “whole ’nother story.”
The strawberry shortcake on the magazine pages and the commercials on TV are ‘way out of my cultural milieu and are not even faintly appealing, for the most part. Those cooks—food designers, more like—think it’s a big treat to offer up a sponge cake and five strawberries with a dollop of whipped cream (Cool Whip, more likely) as “strawberry shortcake.”. Bah! Humbug! “Shortcake”, where I come from, is biscuit-baked (“Short” in baking, means having a high proportion of fat to flour in the recipe, producing a finished product that is rich, crumbly and tender with butter or some other shortening), at a high temperature, either in a pan, to be cut into squares or wedges or as individual biscuits, to be split, buttered and covered with berries.
When it comes to the berries themselves, there are several schools of thought. You’ve got your whole- berry folks(Just what it sounds like : wash ’em, hull ‘em and eat ‘em.). You’ve got your slicers (Can be just halved, can be quartered or full-speed-ahead sliced). And you’ve got your smashers. I come from a long line of smashers, myself. Get out the potato masher or pastry cutter and have at it, until the berries are no longer of a piece and are a wonderful, juicy concoction, to which one adds a little sugar, a little lemon juice…or lime juice for an interesting twist…(Actually, a little pink wine of no particular breeding works well here too). Then bake the shortcake in whatever style you please, take it out of the pan and slather it with butter and ladle the berries over until the proportions of cake to berries seems about right. Then grab a spoon (What? You want to use a fork and have some of that biscuit/butter/berry goodness get away from you? For shame!) and get to it.
How about another chorus of “Strawberry Fields Forever”?
Hit it Roger!