Day 292 – National Strawberries and Cream Day

Sounds simple enough, and delicious too. Fresh strawberries served with whipped cream. This was one I could tackle pretty easily.

I had strawberries in our fridge and when I woke up today, while I was waiting for my coffee to finish up, I started cutting them up. I cut each berry in half and then sliced each side into smaller pieces. I find that cutting them this way gives you good bite sized pieces of strawberries that work well when you are eating them in salads or soaked in cream. After I cut them, I put them back in a bowl and sprinkled in about a teaspoon of sugar just to help them mascerate as they rested. The sugar would bring out all the sweetness from the berries and would also start breaking them down creating a little bit of a natural syrup which would be outstanding with the cream. My plan was let them sit there all day while I was working and then pick up some cream for whipping on my way home. It would be a nice way to end the day.

It was kind of an odd coincidence that I was celebrating strawberries and cream while my sister just happened to be taking a trip to Wimbledon in the U.K. It’s not odd that my sister was visiting Wimbledon. She actually lived there for a brief time. Her husband Doug’s work is based out of London and for a while, they took up residence there. They happened to find a nice spot in Wimbledon to live which was a Tube ride away from Doug’s office, so that’s where they stayed. The famed tennis court was less than a few miles away from their front door. Wimbledon was where their son Zack first attended school and I still have a coffee mug with his school’s name on it. While there, Marybeth actually met a bunch of pretty cool friends who she stayed in touch with even after moving back to the US. This weekend was an opportunity for her to go back to Wimbledon and meet up with the gang for some fun and catching up. I only mention this because she was in Wimbledon which is obviously known for its annual tennis tournament. The tennis tournament is famous for lots of tennisy things, but it has also become famous for the whole show around the tournament including the dress, the fans and the food.  And the most famous food served at Wimbledon is Strawberries and Cream. That was a long way to go to make a connection.

In any case, I don’t think MaryBeth had any strawberries and cream this weekend. In fact, she probably stuck to a diet of prosecco. However, the tournament does not happen until July, so the strawberries and cream consumption has not yet skyrocketed. But it will soon. They say that during the tournament, over 20 tons of strawberries and about 7,000 litres of cream will be consumed. That’s quite a feast. They say that strawberries and cream go back to the Tudor era of the 1500’s and many people credit a man by the name of Thomas Wolsey as introducing them to England. Wolsey ran a kitchen that served over 1,000 meals a day and was always on the lookout for quick desserts that they could prepare for the masses. Strawberries and cream definitely fit that description. While strawberries had been around for a long time, adding them to cream was kind of a new idea as most people associated dairy products with the poor. But together, the two made for a great fresh taste that even the upper echelon of society loved. It was eventually King George V who introduced the dessert to the tennis tournament in the late 1800’s. At that time, eating strawberries in general was kind of fashionable for the muckety-mucks,  so it was a natural fit for Centre Court. Of course having strawberries in season at that time of year made it a natural choice for a summery, festive dessert even though they risked spilling strawberries on their fine summer whites. (Source: Tantemarie.co.uk

I had a fairly easy day at work today although we were still there late cleaning up. I was probably in my car at about 6:45. Meanwhile, Lola was in Newport finishing up a birthday dinner with her sisters in honor of their other sister, Tina. Tina’s not really a sister but she has been part of the family for a long time and she certainly qualifies as family. Tina (and her husband Mike) have been there at every family event and holiday and are always part of all the moments of life that make you love you your family. Today was the day to celebrate Tina so the whole crew was at Plumby’s atop the Brick Alley Pub. I texted Lola to see if they were still there and they were, so I drove down to Newport to meet them and have a beer. I caught the tail end of the festivities so I was able to sit down, sip a refreshing beer and join in the fun. When we eventually left for home, it was probably about 8:30 and I still had to get some cream, so I made plans to stop at Cumberland Farms where I have picked up heavy cream many times before. But apparently they had a run on heavy cream this weekend (must have been all that strawberry and cream celebrating), and they were out. Uh oh. Then I remembered that the Dollar General next store carries heavy cream too, so I made the dash over there and they too were sold out. It was too late to backtrack to Clements and I think they were closed at this point anyway, so I had to improvise. So I picked up some Cool Whip.

I’m not exactly sure if Cool Whip qualifies as cream. It’s made with some cream although its primary ingredient is vegetable oil. The cream that’s in there is skim milk and light cream, both of which do not deliver that authentic cream flavor of a good heavy cream, but it would have to do. There is a lot of science that goes into those tubs to help create that cream sensation, so I would have to trust that. I scooped out the strawberries which had a nice little collection of juice on the bottom of the bowl and then I layered with Cool Whip. It went strawberries, Cool Whip, strawberries, Cool Whip.

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I served it to Lola who was actually busy ironing my shirts (because she’s awesome). Lola was not at all interested in this dish when I told her I used Cool Whip. She’s a purist. But she gave it a try and she disapproved almost immediately. She said it tasted like summer and hospital – the summer being the fresh taste of the sweet berries, the Cool Whip tasting like hospital. That summed it up pretty nicely. I didn’t think it was that bad but the Cool Whip definitely has a processed food kind of taste which is not as enjoyable as the real thing. A few days ago we had strawberry shortcake with fresh made whipped cream at a restaurant and that was amazing. Tonight’s offering was just not the same. The strawberries were nice and ripe however. They were just sad that they didn’t get to bathe in the delightful sweet and creamy fluffiness of homemade whipped cream. On the next big holiday, I have to remember to buy my heavy cream early before the Cabbage Patch Kid rush happens.

Strawberries and cream are a simple treat that brings a lot of happy flavors to the table. They highlight the beautiful bounty of strawberries that is the promise of summer. The cream seems like it was made for wrapping around the sweet berries and delivering more magic to the party. Just like Thomas Wolsey figured out, strawberries and cream delivers in taste and ease. I bet you if he had access to tubs of Cool Whip he would have substituted that into his recipe too. He was one to take the shortcut if it saved him time and money. My journey tonight to the land of Cool Whip came from necessity rather than shortcut and while it still delivered a creaminess to the party, it’s just not the same as the homemade stuff. Maybe that’s how I learn to appreciate the pureness of this dessert. No matter, it was still a delightfully light and sweet way to end the day. I felt like I was court side at the grass courts, the sounds of tennis grunts in the air, and the Queen nearby sucking down her third bowl of fresh strawberries and cream. That’s the true experience and why it deserves to be celebrated throughout the empire. Long live the Queen.

Next Up: National Vanilla Pudding Day 

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