Thursday, May 3, 2012

The One About Strawberries

There's a cycle to eating seasonally.

Step one: Wait in restless anticipation for <insert food here> to be available.

Step two: When <insert food here> finally becomes available, gorge yourself until you can't bear to look at it anymore.

Step three: Wait another eight or nine or ten months until <insert food here> finally comes around again.

Of course, there is an alternative extra step - Put up <insert food here> so that you can continue to enjoy it when it is no longer in season.

For me, this food is currently strawberries.

What is it about fresh strawberries? I don't even bother buying the grocery store versions anymore. Strawberries at the store aren't so delicate that they bruise their tender little bodies merely sitting on top of one another in a container. Strawberries at the store don't seduce you with aromas that entice you like a mauve-colored, come-hither, beckoning hand from a Bugs Bunny cartoon, stroking you under your nose as you pass by. Let's face it - strawberries at the store suck.

The strawberry cycle started two weeks ago, when a table of the delectable fruit lured me into another farm's tent at the Falls Church farmers market. I got a quart, and spent the rest of market surreptitiously opening the cooler where I had stashed it, the better to enjoy its scent as it billowed out of solitary cooler confinement. I spent the following week enjoying strawberries on my oatmeal, my granola, and - most memorably - eaten for dessert in a pool of our own yellow-tinted cream.

So when, at Arlington's farmers market this past Saturday, our neighbors started putting out basket after basket of the little red fruit, I was overcome, and purchased half a flat. I used some of it to make strawberry compote to top my traditional boyfriend-is-visiting breakfast, the German Pancake, and I reserved a bit more so I could luxuriate in strawberries and cream later that week, but the bulk of it ended up in little quilted 8-oz jars.

Preserves - the perfect way to make sure that I can get my strawberry fix any time, any place. And they're so easy to make that it's actually a little disturbing - equal weights strawberries and sugar, cut up and mixed with the juice of a lemon, and left alone overnight, then heated up in two-cup increments and ladled into the appropriate sterilized jars and boiled for ten minutes, leaving me with five jewel-bright additions to my tiny kitchen.

But, naturally, I dropped my first piece of strawberry preserve-bedecked toast, sticky side down, in the garage the next morning after only eating two bites.

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