I remember Aunt Rhoda’s kitchen was cramped and white. She had a little house in Hamilton not far from Stelco steel and she drove her silver Buick with abandon. I am ten years old again and stand in amazement at the speed she drives up the asphalt lane between the houses. As far as I know she never did scrape the side mirrors on the house. We visit in August while she was making strawberry jam.
“This is Conserve,” she said, correcting me “nothing here but fresh picked Ontario strawberries and cane sugar.”
She cooked the berries whole. When the big pot was full and thick––the colour of fresh pressed Sangiovese––she ladled the clumpy conserve in sparkling pint Mason jars. That week we ate strawberry conserve and fresh bread for breakfast every day. The chunky strawberries were as big as your thumb right to the bottom of the jar. Those Ontario strawberries were diamond shaped, not at all like the heart-shaped ones we get at farmers market in Alberta.
We found diamond shaped strawberries in Paris the first week in May and had these with crème fraîche, goat cheese covered in vine ash and pear cider by the Seine, down the steps of Isle Saint Louis––like the kids with backpacks do.
Ile Saint Louis, Seine River, Fresh Berries, Goat Cheese, French-made Bread.
Select a strawberry. With your thumb and fore-finger bring it to your nose in a gentle arc. Hold it close. Breathe in the scent. Smell the strawberry-ness. When you are ready, take a bite. A good strawberry fills your mouth with red ripeness, not unlike a kiss. The flesh is soft, but not too soft; juicy, but not liquid. Feel a slight resistance to the initial bite, and then, a flood of flavour. Draw out the first sensual bite. Slowly crush the fruit and let your mouth fill completely, strawberry engulfs your tongue. Push through the fruit and explore the berry-ness. Take another bite.
This is strawberry.