Strawberry Moon

 

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image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Strawberries are nature’s way of preventing humans living in colder climates from committing suicide during the winter. The promise, the thought of them can keep a person going through the darkest days.

While the winter berries from Florida are a nice try, they just don’t measure up to the ones ripened in the summer sun and not subjected to a ride in a refrigerated truck. The full moon in June is known in indigenous circles as the strawberry moon. The real strawberries, the warm juicy ones just from the field are available at farmers’ markets now. It’s best to eat them standing barefoot in the grass, or better yet, having them fed to you, or feeding them to someone.

That is how the humans came to be according to the creation stories of the Cherokee. The Supreme Goddess had created First Man and First Woman, then placed them on earth. All was blissful until the first couple had the first dust-up. First Woman walked off in a huff with First Man frantically trying to catch up with her. The Goddess looked down, and knew that she had to do something to slow First Woman down. And so She created the first strawberry plant and quickly put it in First Woman’s path. First Woman stopped. Gently, she touched the crimson globes hanging from the stems. They emitted a scent as sweet as the warmth of the day. She plucked one and nibbled on it. She plucked another and as she enjoyed that began to think of First Man and the joys they had shared together. By then, First Man had caught up with her. She fed him a few strawberries and, well…now you know where humans came from.

Even in situations where one may not be able (ahem) to express one’s self openly, strawberries still make for a luscious dessert.  Fruit that’s been macerated in wine is a common summer dessert in the Mediterranean region. Slice the strawberries into a bowl, pour a light red wine over them, add sugar (this will vary with the sweetness of the berries and the wine) and let them sit until well acquainted. Works great with a sparkling wine like prossecco, too.

For the celebrations of Canada Day (July 1) and US Independence Day (July 4), you might need to come up with a more G-rated dessert for family picnics and barbecues. Strawberry shortcake goes well with whipped cream. Just slice up some berries and let them macerate in some sugar or stevia for a couple of hours to get them good and juicy. While that’s happening, make a batch of baking powder biscuits. When they’re done, split in two, fill with the berries, and spoon on some whipped cream. If you want to up the ante, put a scoop of vanilla or strawberry ice cream between the biscuit halves.

If you need to capture the feeling of a summer day to inoculate yourself from the dark cold days, try making preserves. Aunt Google will help you find a recipe, or you can ask an older relative or your county extension service. Strawberries do not take kindly to freezing. Instead of ruby red drops of summer, you get tasteless mush when they thaw. There is plenty of cold and slush to deal with outside. You don’t need it on your oatmeal.

However you decide to celebrate the strawberry, don’t forget the whipped cream.  Not on the berries and wine, but the shortcake wants the whipped cream. It just wouldn’t be shortcake without it, and it just wouldn’t be summer with out shortcake or strawberries.

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Cake Lust

Have you found Manger yet? (the infinite of “to eat” in French.) Mimi Thorrison chronicles her life on a farm in southwestern France. She writes cookbooks, runs weekend cooking workshops, and raises children and fox terriers.

She also makes cakes like the Josephine ruffle cake. In this picture it looks like something that a couple of Botticelli angels should  be presenting to Venus as she lounges in her clam shell.

It’s a simple butter cake with a buttercream frosting–neither are that hard to execute in and of themselves, but it’s the piping technique that makes it special and looking as if the cake is class in a petticoat. For the uninitiated, that can be a challenge.

Since I found Manger last week, I’ve kept returning to this recipe the same way I return to favorite poems or books. I would love to make it. Usually the cakes I make much plainer, such as my grandma’s carrot cake or French yogurt cake. The former I don’t decorate too much. It’s s-o-o good on its own. Sometimes I’ll dust the top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar; maybe some cream cheese frosting if I feel really crazy. For the yogurt cake, I decorate with jam or berries or swap out some of the flour for almond flour or cocoa powder.

And those are good cakes. They are solid, tried, and true. This ruffle cake intrigues me. I limit cake baking to once a month. The impulse control issues due to the ADHD make it hard for me not to scarf it in a day or so. But perhaps for a very special occasion..yes. One is coming up for  a friend’s next significant birthday. Yes. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to practice, would it?

Creating a Retreat in a Few Easy Steps

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I could live here.  (Image courtesy Old Design Shop)

Would you like to come in? We could sip iced tea and enjoy strawberry shortcake made with biscuits–baking powder, not drop ones–and topped with whipped cream while conversing about books, pets, gardening, and period films. If we disagree, then we would agree to do so and move on to a topic of true importance such as chocolate. Or perhaps have dinner at the pine trestle table served on plain white dishes. Something good and peasant-y, like coq au vin. Of course we would have a crusty loaf and a robust red to go with, or iced tea if you were inclined away from alcohol. Dessert? How does mousse au chocolate sound?

Today seems as good as any to move there. I grow weary of the political vitriol and stories of animal abuse on social media. The campus shooting du jour unfolds as I type this. (Google “UCLA shooting.” I don’t want to give it any more energy.) It is a good day to create a retreat.

“Retreat” usually carries religious/spiritual connotations, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be such. You can create a temporary haven from the outside world fairly easily:

  • Heed the advice of John Prine in his song “Spanish Pipedream”. OK, just turn it off. (yes, this is the John Denver version.)  At the very least, stop watching the news. For tune-age, find internet streams or stations that don’t blast news.
  • Limit time on social media and don’t read comment threads on news sites. Even the threads on NPR are getting trolled and their moderators don’t seem to be doing very much.The amount of ugly out there is overwhelming.
  • This might sound weird, but if you can get your dwelling in order–a little dusting, a bit of decluttering–it might make things a little more restful.
  • Take a few minutes in the morning to read something inspiring. You’ll be in a better frame of mind.

Now, would you like some lemon with your tea?

 

 

Loving What You Eat and Eating What You Love and What Loves You Back

So after some months of watching carbs, restricting wheat, and moderate portions, the weight still isn’t moving much. I spoke with my wisewoman about the dilemma, and she brought up a valid but unconsidered point: am I condemming myself and my indulgences such as the occasional wheat-crusted pizza, or am I loving it and accepting myself? When enjoying in the present in the  latter frame of mind, a person’s body will be more tolerant of the incoming food. Not enough to mitigate allergies or sensitivities that can trigger a trip to the ER, mind you, but for things like my once or twice weekly wheat indulgences.  

Case in point: a couple of weeks ago, Hubby and I went to an Indian restaurant. I ate mostly vegetarian food, except for a tandoori chicken leg. Even though I did overeat, I had no real discomfort afterwards. I felt happy and satisfied, and had the mango custard because I could. I didn’t feel as if I had to have dessert in order to compensate for food I didn’t like. It just seemed like a natural closure to the meal. 

And then it hit me: how much have I eaten in this life that I haven’t liked in order to be a good girl or polite woman? Or to conform with what others are telling me that I should be eating?

I’ve been eating a lot of homemade Indian veg food the last couple of weeks. I’ve felt a lot happier and more satisfied. Sticking with reasonable portions, of course. Wheat is definitely off the table for most meals, but chickpeas masala with spinach makes me a happy girl, indeed.