Strawberry season is here!
When I was a kid and my brother was a baby, Mom and Dad took us to a strawberry picking farm. It was Saturday mid-morning and already muggy. We drove up to the farm entrance and there was a wooden stand laden with flats of picked strawberries. One had the option of buying pre-picked berries, or venture further into the farm, find a spot to park in the dirt road next to the field and help yourself. Mom and Dad packed flat cardboard boxes in the back of the truck; we also had a picnic basket, plenty of water, sandwiches in ziplock baggies–we were set for a day immersed in strawberries. I was excited. I loved strawberries and it seemed I could never get enough of them. The field of low green vines tangled with leaves was to me a field of dreams. Underneath that green carpet were sun-ripened, plump, red, juicy sweet berries.
We unloaded the cardboard from the truck, and Mom spread out the blanket on the pickup bed for my brother. His chubby limbs protruding from his green and blue onesy were as plump as those strawberries. Mom outfitted him with a hat that tied under his chin. Dad and I started out picking first while Mom watched Matt. I plucked a berry and then popped the next one into my mouth. As excited as I was to be out in a field of strawberries, the excitement waned rather quickly. My legs ached from squatting–God forbid that I would sit down on the the dirt to pick berries. My fingers were stained with juice and sticky; I had enough strawberries that I didn’t want to taste another one. The sun grew hotter, and my ponytail clung to the back on my neck. I was ready to go home to air conditioning. That was not to be for quite a while. Instead Mom went into the field to pick the berries while I climbed aboard the truck bed and stayed with Matt. By the time both my brother and I grew fussy with the heat, my parents decided they had picked their fill. We had a lot of strawberries. The truck smelled of fresh berries. We talked of making jam and strawberry shortcake and sugared strawberries for cereal–Dad loved sugared strawberries with his bran flakes.
On our way home we stopped at Pizza Hut for dinner. There’s a photograph somewhere in one of the family albums that captured our visit to Pizza Hut that night. Dad propped Matt up on our table, and Mom took a picture. Matt smiled his widest, toothless grin, and Dad smiled real big right back at him.
That was the only time we ever went strawberry picking.
When strawberries were on sale at the grocer’s a few weeks ago, I bought two pints and a carton of heavy cream. I thought of strawberry shortcake. It was a Friday evening, and I had stopped at the store after work. I ended up not making it that night, but when Saturday morning came I had a craving for shortcake with slices of strawberries topped with fresh whipped cream.
That was a first for me to have strawberry shortcake for breakfast…but I don’t think it will be my last.