Wednesday, June 08, 2005

what to do with a bucketful of strawberries

1. Hold a strawberry fete or regale. My little reference book about all things sweetly and old-fashionedly past tells me:

During the Victorian era, a favorite summer amusement on warm June evenings was the community’s annual strawberry fete or festival. Usually these eagerly anticipated outdoor socials, sponsored by churches or schools as fund raising events, featured an abundance of fresh-picked strawberries...

[...] "Strawberries in every style and form will furnish the refreshments for the occasion; strawberry ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream, strawberry whip, fruit lemonade, strawberry shortcake and strawberry sherbet."
2. Take a strawberry bath. Apparently Madame Tallien from Emperor Napoleon’s court loved to bathe in the juice of fresh strawberries, using 22 lbs. per basin. (Yikes, I hope for the sake of those around her, she didn’t insist on this kind of bath all year long!)

3. Find a double strawberry, break it in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex. Legend has it you will fall in love with each other.

4. Spread the goodness around by feeding some to the birds. Apparently the reason for the wide distribution of wild strawberries is because strawberry seeds pass through a bird’s digestion intact, and germination responds to light rather than moisture so seeds don’t need to be buried in soil to get started.

5. Take some as medicine. Ancient Romans believed that berries helped cure melancholy, fainting, inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, bad breath, gout, diseases of the blood, liver and spleen.

6. Bake a strawberry shortcake. Apparently this originated with the American Indians, who crushed wild strawberries and mixed them with cornmeal to make strawberry bread. The colonists invented their own version of the recipe, and called it Strawberry Shortcake.

This recipe of Strawberry Shortcake is from my most treasured recipe book – the one handwritten for me by my mum. It’s predictably short on instructions (like how many strawberries, the order in which to add cake ingredients, size of pan and heat of the I’ll do a bit of guestimating).

Begin by slicing a generous amount of strawberries (3-4 cups?), sprinkle with sugar and set aside.

2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 well-beaten egg
2/3 cup milk
1 ½ cup flour
½ cup melted shortening.

Mix all ingredients. Spoon into a round, greased cake pan and bake for 15 minutes in hot oven (probably 375 - 400 F)

Let cool slightly, split cake and fill with half of the strawberries, reserving remainder for the top (or put whole strawberries on the top). Serve with whipped cream.

(For more strawberry facts, trivia and history, go here.)


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