Define forever. Does once each year count? The anticipation of those sweet, heart-shaped berries in the full of summer is worth the wait. Oh, there are containers of red fruits, twice the size of the berries they imitate, available throughout the other three seasons. The ones bred to withstand transport, for color undetermined by ripeness and for size rather than intensity of flavor. But what we’re talking about here are those morsels of red sweetness that operate on their own schedule. Fortunately, there are still things that money can’t buy or manipulate.
In our era, the myth of strawberries is grounded in Lennon’s fields forever, a sliver of his childhood informing his adulthood. Strawberry Fields was a Salvation Army home for children near Lennon’s Liverpool home. Whimsy and imagery find each other everywhere.
Photo by Dietmar Rabich
Lennon’s thought is but a late addition to the culture of strawberries. Wild strawberries were prized as early as 234 BC in Italy. Traditional country folk in Bavaria tied baskets of these berries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to local elves. In the court of the Emperor Napoleon, a rather excessive Madame Tallien was said to bath in fresh strawberry juice, which required twenty-two pounds of the ruby fruit. The question is, in an age without screened windows, how were the bees reacting to the sticky-sweet scent a body so bathed?
Belgium so reveres the berry as to have established a museum in its honor. Perhaps they’ve been influenced by their French neighbors. If so, maybe we can anticipate a world-class strawberry wine. The wisest of Romans considered the strawberry capable of dispelling melancholy. Me too! Who could be glum faced with a bowl of cheerful redness? Certainly not the Spaniards who have worked their way into this narrative with a charming piece of fancy, a strawberry snake cake. Clearly, there are people with time on their hands. Or else they understand that play should be a priority.
However, most of the women I know have at least one ball too many to keep in the air. It is on their behalf that today’s recipe is offered: Busy Woman’s Strawberry Tart. It will join other strawberry recipes, including Strawberry Granita, Strawberry Risotto, Grilled Strawberries and Straawberra Pye on the market’s web site.