friday feast: just call me strawberry girl

"He turn’d a fruit to an enchantment which cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires the young." ~ Lord Byron


photo by sunshinesyrie

Did you know that May is National Strawberry Month?

Lots of sweet, juicy beauties have been appearing in the stores for a few weeks now, and I can’t get enough of them. I think they just might be the most beautiful, perfect fruit around — no peeling required, no pits or troublesome seeds, ounce for ounce, containing more Vitamin C than citrus fruits, and only about 50 calories per cup!

  
     photo by heatherkh

*bites into a dark red ripe berry and sighs with rapture*

My first bite of strawberry each spring instantly brings to mind three things that make me supremely happy: Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (still a sentimental favorite), "Strawberry Fields" by the Beatles (no explanation needed), and Wimbledon tennis.

I lived in Wimbledon for two years, and once walked over to see Martina Navratilova play in Court #1, followed by a serving of the best strawberries and cream I’ve ever had in my life. English berries are simply divine! This experience prompted me, while living in London, to indulge in scones, strawberry jam, and Devonshire clotted cream at every opportunity. I have since tried to recreate this particular dreamstate to no avail, as this treat is best enjoyed with a nice cup of Fortnum and Mason Darjeeling in a chilly bedsitter, gazing at a quintessentially English grey sky. 


photo by su-lin

Ah, but there’s so much more to strawberry love than its taste.


photo by snapper48

I recently learned that each spring in some parts of Bavaria, country folk tie small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of cattle as an offering to the elves, who are mad for them. This supposedly helps to produce healthy calves and an abundance of milk. I’m thinking maybe I should wear a basket of strawberries around my neck, so the elves here will help me produce good stories!

Either that, or I could copy a certain Madame Tallien, who hung around Napoleon’s court. She was famous for bathing in strawberry juice. Can you imagine? It took at least 22 pounds of strawberries to fill a basin. I’m guessing she didn’t bathe that often. More likely, she had her fair share of cold strawberry soup, which was routinely served to newlyweds as an aphrodisiac. *fans self*

By now you’re probably hot and hungry, so I’m serving up a poem by Genevieve Taggard, and my recipe for Strawberry Cobblecake. You may know Genevieve by her biography of Emily Dickinson, written while she taught at Mt. Holyhoke Seminary. Apparently she was a socialist who was criticized for her political poems (what else is new), but more interesting to me, is that she was raised in Hawai’i, where her missionary parents ran a multicultural school. Her poem captures the rapture.

MILLIONS OF STRAWBERRIES
by Genevieve Taggard


photo by Mr.Jaded

Marcia and I went over the curve,
Eating our way down
Jewels of strawberries we didn’t deserve,
Eating our way down,
Till our hands were sticky, and our lips painted.
And over us the hot day fainted,
And we saw snakes,
And got scratched,
And a lust overcame us for the red unmatched
Small buds of berries,
Till we lay down —
Eating our way down —
And rolled in the berries like two little dogs,
Rolled
Into the late gold.
And gnats hummed,
And it was cold,
and home we went, home without a berry,
Painted red and brown,
Eating our way down.

Now, to eat your way down, try this easy recipe. It’s from a charming little cookbook called Strawberry Patchwork by Susan A. McCreary, a local Herndon author. The cobblecake is a good brunch cake — down-to-earth, homey, unpretentious. You simply pour the batter into a greased pie plate, and arrange the strawberries on top, like this:

As it bakes, the batter gently puffs up around the berries.

It’s delicious with whipped cream, and makes a nice change from shortcake, or as they say, "sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam, and feed upon strawberries, sugar and cream."

STRAWBERRY COBBLECAKE

2 cups strawberries
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 egg
milk
1 T sugar
cream

Cut 6 T butter into flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar until mixture is crumbly. Beat egg slightly in one cup and add milk to make 1 cup. Stir in flour mixture until blended and pour into greased deep pie plate. Halve strawberries and arrange cut side down in rings on top of batter. Dot with 2 T butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350°F for 50 minutes, or until center is firm. Cut in wedges and serve with cream.

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted by the lovely Susan Taylor Brown at Susan Writes. When you see her, give her this: !

A FEW MORE TIDBITS:

Strawberries (a symbol of Venus, the Goddess of Love), have long been synonymous with passion, healing, and perfect righteousness. Its luscious red color and heart shape have inspired poets and painters through the ages; Medieval stone masons carved strawberry designs on altars and around the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals. 

The ancient Romans believed that the berries alleviated symptoms of melancholy, fainting, all inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, halitosis, attacks of gout, and diseases of the blood, liver and spleen.

American colonists created their own version of strawberry shortcake after tasting the bread baked by the Native Americans, which contained crushed berries mixed with cornmeal.

Don’t miss my recipe for Fresh Strawberry Pie. Seriously, seriously good!

       
        Beary berry!              

 

29 thoughts on “friday feast: just call me strawberry girl

  1. The ancient Romans may have been correct – berries are powerful antioxidants, with anti-inflammatory properties.

    I would not tie the wild strawberries round your neck, were I you, lest it cause you to produce an abundance of milk. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t want elves involved in such a personal way, nor would I care for that particular, er, side effect.

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  2. We’ve been eating our fair share of strawberries lately. Yum, yum, yum! I LOVE strawberry season.

    And, as always, your pictures always make me hungry!

    — Carrie, Reading to Know

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  3. LOL! Okay, I’ll reconsider the basket of strawberries around my neck, since you have more experience than I do with the likes of elves, gnomes and trolls, etc.😀

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  4. Waaah. Now I am hungry. Thanks for another great post, Jama. I didn’t know that strawberries were a symbol of Venus! And that poem is charming. :o)

    For our family reunion in April, some of my relatives brought pounds and pounds of strawberries from Santa Maria, California. Mmm.

    Tarie
    Into the Wardrobe

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  5. Strawberries

    Elaine M.

    Jama,

    This is a delicious post! Those strawberries look yummy–and so does the cobblecake. Homemade strawberry shotcake is one of my husband’s favorite desserts.

    I remember reading that poem years ago in Reflections on the Gift of Watermelon Pickle…

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  6. I just switched over from strawberry gluttony to blueberry overdosing, but I still loved your post! Took me right back to tea time in Oxford last summer. Best picture was the one of the baby with a strawberry plug in his/her mouth!

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  7. Strawberries don’t ripen locally here until June too. I am afraid we get those chemically grown horrible fake things all year round in the grocery stores though, so it’s hard to recognize the natural berry.😦 I am going to start watching for local organic strawberries now!!

    That glorious poem brings me back to a childhood summer in Michigan’s upper peninsula. My brothers and I found an abandoned cabin in the woods that had an overgrown garden full of huge ripe strawberries. We gorged on them and it was heaven. Just like this poem we ate our way down and ended up laying in the dirt under the green forgiving sun. *sigh*

    I’m going to try to adapt your cake recipe for Gluten Free and have it at our family BBQ this weekend. Thx for the inspiration!

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  8. Re: Strawberries

    Sounds like I’m going to have to take a look at Reflections on the Gift of Watermelon Pickle. I vaguely remember it, but it was a long time ago.

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  9. Yum! I keep thinking back to the strawberries and cream you had in Wimbledon. When the strawberries and cream are fresh, it is one of the best desserts ever! Hope you find its equal one day…🙂

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  10. Thanks for stopping by to read!! I’m looking forward to watching Wimbledon tennis on TV this year — maybe I’ll have some strawberries and cream then!

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  11. Now you’re singing my song! I have been craving strawberries like mad as of late. I made a strawberry child doll, too… I may need to make one for myself, though. My favorite way to eat strawberries these days is in a compote with rhubarb. Rhubarb and strawberries– it’s genius! Who thought it up?
    –Farida

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  12. I made the strawberry cake with Pamela’s Gluten Free flour mix and used soy milk & butter-flavored crisco to make it gluten & dairy free. We had it after BBQ and it was delicious! I had to print out the recipe for family & friends. Thanks!! ^_^

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  13. Thanks so much for letting me know how it turned out. You’re very clever at making substitutions. I’ll have to make a note of this and try it sometime🙂.

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