Strawberry Memories

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In the early 1950’s, there were several U-pick strawberry fields around our home in Medway that looked just like the fields we pick in today. And just like then, sweet, crimson juice from the berries stains our fingers as we work along the mounds of dark green, heart-shaped leaves. Dew washes our hands and arms and soaks through our shoes.

Two other things are the same in the fields today. Eating a berry now and then while you work is not only okay but is expected. And friendly conversation between strangers is heard along with children calling out at the discovery of the biggest berry in the patch.

Entire mornings can be spent in the field. We always bring a thermos of coffee and perhaps a sandwich for our break. As we slip off our wet shoes and socks, wriggling our toes in the morning air, our bare feet remind me of a much smaller pair of feet many years ago. Actually, three pair of feet, an old station wagon and a picnic breakfast.

Sixty years ago, my brother and sister and I shared in the first day of berry harvest. Mother bundled us up, still sleepy-eyed, in two layers of clothes. The outer layer looked like fall fashion-long pants, sweaters and hats to keep out the morning chill. Underneath were summer shorts and shirts which were what we ended our adventure in as the day warmed up. Mom already had the old family station wagon packed with breakfast. She knew early pickers go the best berries. She also knew three little ones in tow would last longest in the field with a promise of a picnic.

A few miles east of Medway, the Hauf family opened their strawberry field to pickers. They didn’t mind children wandering through the rows, eating a berry for every one they added to Mother’s baskets. They understood the gleeful shouts of discovery at finding the biggest, reddest berry in the patch. Delivered to Mom, she praised the discovery and nestled the red gem in a corner of a basket. 

The Haufs also understood the picnic. The old blanket spread out over the wet grass, shoes off, cups of milk, fruit sandwiches, chatter and laughter. They didn’t mind our being there a long time, all morning in fact. It seemed time didn’t matter to them either, on such a harvest morning.

Returning home, serious berry eating ensued. We climbed on chairs around the kitchen table and searched for those berries tucked in the corners of the baskets. Holding them by the stem, we dipped them in saucers of sugar and smacked our lips as we ate. Mother never reprimanded us for the quantity eaten.

She knew that harvest is best eaten fresh and to the full. Memory made of bounty satisfies the soul as much as the food nourishes the body.

Mom’s Shortcake

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup shortening or cold butter
2/3 cup cream or whole milk
Fresh strawberries
Real whipped cream

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in the shortening or butter. Add cream or milk and stir dough until it leaves the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto floured surface. Pat into round shape and placed in greased 9-inch pan. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Or make individual biscuits and bake for less time. When barely warm, split, ladle slightly mashed and sweetened berries over bottom half. Place top half on and pour on more berries. Top with whipped cream.

You can forget the whipped cream and pour cold milk over a serving. It makes a fine supper.