When food geeks get spring fever, who do they crush on? Fresh-picked strawberries and NPR, of course.
Yesterday I got to take a break from my provincial routine of thinking and writing about fruits, veggies and the prospect of raising chickens to go to the big city and talk about my provincial routine of thinking and writing about fruits, veggies and the prospect of raising chickens.
Also? I got to do the talking on my favorite radio station. So that was a little different.
I spoke with Amy Eddings on the All Things Considered segment called Last Chance Foods, which features foods soon to go out of season. The sultry, succulent stars this week were fresh-picked strawberries.
For “research purposes only,” I went strawberry picking last week at the utterly charming Earth Friendly Organic Farm in Clarksburg, NJ. It’s a shining example of a tiny farm using lovingly attentive organic practices but without organic certification, one of the more important topics we touched on in the WNYC interview. If you’re local, you should definitely pay a visit this season. But watch out—these folks play hardball where charm is concerned. There’s a three-room Bed and Breakfast on the premises, and co-owner Michael Diehl, 83, may introduce you to his three-year-old orchard as “an exercise in optimism, an 80-year-old planting fruit trees.” What’s a girl to do with a line like that? They’ll have blueberries, raspberries and blackberries later in the season, and there are fresh eggs daily.
All of this strawberry talk, along with a couple of thoughts and articles, has really got me thinking about the nature of eating seasonally in a culture of instant—if plasticized—gratification. Real live strawberries, the stain-your-fingers kind you pick from a farm or in a blue quart container at the farmers’ market, are a true seasonal delicacy, fleeting and fragile and special.
Cold winter months of eager anticipation, a mid-spring full of uncertainty about the weather’s effect on quality and yield, and then, finally, with luck, a few weeks of abundance so furious you have to haul out your biggest baking sheets, widest canning pots and strongest neighbors just to keep from drowning. That’s what eating seasonally is supposed to feel like. And if you search really hard, spend kind of a lot of money, and cover your ears and hum every once in a while, you really can make that happen in the next few weeks.
But then there’s the alternative—the plastic supermarket clamshells with the strawberry simulacra inside, trucked in from California or, when it’s really cold, Mexico. They’re always there, so they’ve got that going for them. But have you noticed how they rather delight in treating you as though, having made the foolish choice not to live in California, you really don’t deserve any better than whatever you happen to get? They’re no different from most of pop culture that way, so you can’t blame them too much. And it’s not that they’re inedible or pure evil or anything (though they are a member of the Dirty Dozen, so caveat emptor)—it’s just that they’re not really strawberries in any sense of the word that I’d like to go on the radio to talk about.
I’d bet that most of you reading this blog or listening to NPR have tasted real strawberries. But I’d bet even more that the majority of American children in 2010 have not, and that they have no idea they’re missing anything. Probably some of them are pretty sure they don’t even like strawberries, never having been presented with one that’s overly likable. Just something to think about, and maybe move you to throw a couple of handfuls of wild strawberry seeds out your car window the next time the mood strikes.
You can listen to the interview and get the recipe for Sweet and Savory Strawberry Bruschetta here on WNYC’s culture page.
Before you go, though, weigh in! Where are you getting your strawberries this year? Do you hold out for the real thing or settle (gladly or otherwise) for the supermarket? And if you do hold out for truly seasonal strawberries and other foods, what do you do with your cognitive dissonance when you pass those judgmental Californian berries in the store? Leave a comment and let us know.