Saturday, June 18, 2011


Memory is strange and mysterious.  Over time we can't really tell whether something happened truly as we remember it or if our memory has somehow recorded an altered history. It's as though our brains are revisionists allowing us to remember only certain fragments or parts of experiences be they good or bad.    

One of my fondest childhood memories is strawberry picking with my mother and younger brother after the end of school each year.  I grew up on Long Island, the child of two educators.  My mother had basically the same schedule we had so on the last day of school (which was always a half day in my dim memories) she would take us out to the east end of "the Island" and we would go strawberry picking.  Sometimes my father was there which makes me doubt that this always happened on the last day of school.  I recall plucking the succulent little berries off the bushes and popping them (unwashed of course) right into my mouth.  They would be sweet, juicy and warm from the sun.  For every one we put in our container I'm sure we ate three or four, minimum.   I remember coming home full of strawberries, tell-tale stains on my hands and clothing and feeling happy and lucky that my mother had decided to take us.  I remember how much fun it was.

Now that I'm a parent I understand the importance of traditions and once my daughter started school I reinstated the end of school strawberry picking trip.  I often wonder about my mother's memories of those trips and just how reliable my memories are.  Did we always go *on* the last day of school?  Did my brother and I actually get along (because I don't have any memories of disagreements with him on these trips)? How much picking did we really do versus my poor mother (and father)?   

I often think about what my daughter's memories of these trips will be some day.   We have now taken 5 of them and while I'd like to think I'm making memories that will last a lifetime I do wonder what she will conjure up when she recalls these trips.  Will she remember how I taught her to carefully look into the center of the plants?  That by gently moving the leaves aside she would be rewarded with perfectly ripe berries that other, less patient pickers had overlooked by only picking from the edges?  Will she recall me shouting for her to come to a particularly plentiful plant so that she could be the one to have the satisfaction of  picking all the berries from it?  Will she remember feeding the animals at the farm and how gentle the donkeys were?  I am fairly sure she'll remember the homemade ice cream as a reward for all of her "hard work" in the fields.  I hope she will remember how much fun it was.

I also wonder what I will remember one day far into the future.  Will I remember how I was the one left in the field picking by myself while my "hot, tired and itchy" child decided  she was finished after 20 minutes of picking?  Will I remember how I was "so unfair" and "saved all the good ones" for myself to pick?   Who knows if I'll remember today at all  

I hope I will remember the look on her face when she found that one perfect berry and asked if she could eat it right then and there and I said yes.  I hope I will remember how she bit into it and her eyes lit up at the taste of that perfect strawberry as it hit her mouth.  I hope I will remember her berry stained hand clasping my equally stained hand as we rode back on the tractor to pay for the berries. I hope I will remember how much fun it was.

Strawberry Sorbet
(adapted from Claudia Fleming and Melissa Clark)
Yield: 1 quart (which is NEVER enough and why I usually double the recipe)

I have a freezer that is packed to the gills.  But every summer, just after we go strawberry picking, I am sure to make room for the ridiculously large bowl of my ice cream maker in it.  Why?  Because of this recipe.  This is the recipe my copy of "The Last Course" automatically opens to when I take the book down from the shelf and flip open the cover.  This strawberry sorbet is worth the effort it takes to carve out some space for the gigantic bowl and worth the patience to wait, wait, wait for it to freeze adequately.  The key to this sorbet is making it with the best possible strawberries you can find.  Unless it's the peak of strawberry season it just isn't worth making.   Each spoonful is bursting with luscious flavor if you capture the berries at their best.  If you live in the Northeast make it in the next few weeks or wait until next summer.

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries (the BEST you can get your grubby little paws on), rinsed well, hulled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups simple syrup (recipe here)
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice (I prefer lime but most people seem more likely to have a lemon on hand)
  1. Toss the strawberries with the sugar and let the mixture rest for 2 hours.
  2. Transfer the berries to a food processor or blender and puree with the water until very smooth.  Strain and press on the solids to extract all of the juice and flavor.  Discard the solids.
  3. Transfer the puree to a bowl and whisk it with the simple syrup and lemon or lime juice.  Cover and chill until very cold (at least 3 hours or overnight).
  4. Once properly chilled (this step is essential) freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.
  5. Try to be nice and share with others.  Keeping it all to yourself will be extremely tempting.

Self Portrait of Us.  June 18th, 2011.  Alstede Farms, Chester, NJ

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