I never loved strawberries growing up, and now I know why. The ones I grew up with came from the grocery store, might have looked nice and red... actually, nice and red for the bottom 2/3s which graduated into a white color at the stem... but tasted disappointingly sour. It was like being really excited to go out on a date with a gorgeous guy only to find that the person within was totally vapid and that conversation was futile. So can you blame a young girl for not wanting anything to do with it?
I recall being confused by the paradox. I mean, strawberries were heralded around me and by the media as being the fruit of the beginning of summer, a fantastic sweet that could replace dessert. Strawberry Shortcake was one of my favorite cartoons and dolls, and it was supposed to represent all things good. And yet, it tasted so marginal, so incomprehensibly empty.
Today, I stopped by the Chiquies Roc Farm near my house. The farm is run by an Amish family and is chemical-free. Tis the season of strawberries, and as I bite into these little ruby jewels, it's red all throughout and there's a sweetness that I have never experienced in a strawberry before.
Here's the criminal part. Until recently, I did not know that strawberries could be red throughout. It's so stupid, isn't it? I believed it could be red all the way to the stem on the outside, but that one would still bite in and see white streaks of what I know now to be unripened fruit with its big dry core. But it's what I grew up with, sadly, and every single strawberry I'd ever had up to that point met that criteria. It really begs the question of what our food system has become and what it has done to our ability to understand what nature intended food to be. Since we're already more than 80% urbanized in this country and this is projected to increase, even, I feel for the kids who will grow up just like me and never understand or appreciate the real essence of a strawberry.
So now I savor the juices of these ripe, tender, sun-warmed morsels of delight, and I think I might just have to go and find my Strawberry Shortcake doll. I owe her an apology.