Wednesday, April 8, 2009

They're The Berries!

My Dad had a favorite expression for things he really, really liked - he'd exclaim, "That's the berries!" I don't know where the expression came from but from him it was high praise, indeed.

Fast forward to when I was in the throes of a divorce and trying to decide where I would live after things settled down. I had been in western New York (WENY) for 20+ years and, although I loved it, I had to admit that the weather there is pretty much the pits. The winters are not so much fiercely cold - those huge Great Lakes absorb heat all summer and meter it back all winter - as they are very long, early November to late April or sometimes into May (one memorable year, it snowed in all 12 months) and they are gray, gray, gray. The summers are sticky, humid and hot - and yet much too brief.

I had lots of sensible reasons for choosing the Bay area -
good year-round weather, lots of colleges to employ my career counseling skills, some already-resident and supportive friends, located halfway between my family in Hawaii and my family back East - but the real reasons I chose northern California (NOCA) were two - that My Beloved lived here and that the strawberry season is exquisitely long.

In WENY, the strawberries are amazing. In mid-June when strawberries are locally available, the whole air is perfumed as you drive by a berry patch. Everyone turns out to pick them, eat them and make jam from them. They are sweet and luscious and altogether wonderful - for those two measly weeks.

In NOCA, on the other hand, strawberry season begins in late March and continues unabated until late October when I can still get really sweet, ripe strawberries if I take a drive along the coast south of San Francisco where the cool, foggy summers retard the season for a few more precious weeks. I might have chosen NOCA for the strawberries alone; My Beloved, however, was a huge bonus.

Here's one of our favorite ways to serve strawberries, now that they are on the market and beautifully ripe again. So simple, all we do is dip the strawberries in some creme fraiche, then into a dish of coarse vanilla sugar, then pop the whole thing in our mouths, trying sometimes in vain to keep the pink juice from running down our chins.

They are the berries!



Blogger Anna Haight said...

The town I grew up in, Marysville, WA was the Strawberry Capital of the World until strawberry fields became tract houses and a city in California took over the moniker. I love strawberries! Dipped in rum then sugar isn't a bad way to go either ;-)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009  
Blogger Greg said...

We are indeed lucky to live here for a long list of reasons. Vanilla sugar is something you make?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009  
Blogger namastenancy said...

You inspired me. I just bought three huge baskets of berries from the Farmer's Market and intend to indulge myself until they are ALL GONE. All MINE MINE MINE!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

You've given me an idea. There is a hokey gentleman's farm outside of Escondido that sells flats of glorious strawberries. Perhaps I can take my parents for a drive that culminates in juicy love.
I'll get started on the vanilla sugar now!

Thursday, April 09, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Anna, hmmm, rum and sugar, I'll have to give that a try!

Greg, you can make it by burying a vanilla bean in some sugar for a few days/weeks, or you can buy it ready-made in the spice section of some store. Either way, it's delish.

Nancy, reminds me of the seagulls in the "Looking for Nemo" movie. They thought everything was "Mine! Mine! Mine!"

Cookiecrumb, that would be a super outing for the parental units. What's not to love about fresh strawberries and a drive in the country?

Thursday, April 09, 2009  
Blogger katiez said...

My aunt also used that expression... but differently - more as a fond, indulgent exclamation over something or someone a little bizarre....
Now, I WANT berries!

Saturday, April 11, 2009  
Anonymous Jackie said...

Thanks for the wonderful post. My whole family went strawberry picking today. I'm definitely going to try this one.

Sunday, April 12, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

KatieZ, I never hear that expression without thinking of Dad and his delight.

Jackie, absolutely cool name for your blog! And I look forward to reading more of your posts - the food sounds wonderful! Welcome.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009  

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