Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Strawberry Memories

I love strawberries. I mean, I LOVE strawberries. LOVE LOVE LOVE fresh, plump, super ripe, sweet strawberries.

My grandparents used to have a big farm in southern Illinois and they always had a good sized field of strawberries. Our summer vacations were never early enough in the year for us to be there at strawberry pickin' time, but Grandma always put strawberries up for us in the freezer so we could have "fresh" strawberries, strawberry shortcake and the like. So much of my love of strawberries is tied to my grandparents, their farm and their strawberry field.

My grandmother's strawberry shortcake can be beaten by none. It's amazing. Most people have never had strawberry shortcake with shortbread but once they try my grandmother's they *never* go back. For the past 5 or more years, every spring my aunt would go to a local strawberry patch and pick strawberries for us all. She and Grandpa would clean, hull and macerate them. Grandma made the shortcake. And we'd eat strawberry shortcake nonstop until we pooped pink. Grandma always made extra shortcake for me to take home. It was like her special treat just for me. I loved standing in her kitchen watching her make it and talking to her.

On the farm when we visited, strawberry season was well over so we'd ride on the fenders of Grandpa's tractor while he turned the field. Once it was just him and me, an unusual occurrence because my younger brother was almost always velcroed to my grandfather's hip growing up. We were going down the incline and hit a nest of fireflies. We were swarmed and it was so amazing! Later on, we hit a nest of mosquitoes and were swarmed. That wasn't as amazing.

I remember getting up at 8 am on the farm, all the windows open all night because of no air conditioning so the house felt like morning dew, and eating cereal with Grandma. She always had her Grape Nuts with strawberries on top. It was the only time the house was cool during the day and it was soothing and comforting to sit and eat breakfast together.

Homemade strawberry ice cream. My grandparents always had a Pig Pickin' for 4th of July and made homemade ice cream. Grandma always made sure there was strawberry ice cream.

My birthdays... If we were at Grandma's house on my birthday, my cake was always angel food cake with strawberries or some kind of cake with strawberry icing that she made from scratch with real strawberries.

Strawberries are very emotional for me now. I guess I need to have my aunt teach me how to make the shortcake now. I almost don't want to learn because it makes it very final that the torch has been passed on.

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