Cooking Connection: The Stages of Love

Goodlifer: Cooking Connection: Stages of Love

I would fantasize about them all winter. As the snow mounted and the darkness of the season began to invade the days, I became obsessed.

Supple. Lush. Juicy.

Standing at the bus stop every morning, wrapped in four shirts and a winter coat to keep warm, I would pull my scarf in front of my mouth and breathe heavily into the fabric. But the real warmth came from the fragile memories of running the tip of my tongue across the texture of their skin, nibbling, and eventually frantically stuffing them into my mouth.

I could vividly imagine the juice exploding across my tongue—a sensation that always felt new and exciting.

Strawberries. At the age of four my favorite t-shirt featured a big strawberry plastered across my chest. In the third grade I composed a literary ode to strawberries, declaring my favorite color to be red on account of strawberries. This wasn’t just lust, it was a love complete with mystery and romance.

We even had a special meeting place, all those years ago. Up a hill, that to my child’s eyes seemed almost steep enough to be a mountain, I would walk every year to have my reunion. There was no gravel or cement, just a path tore through the grass by previous motorists. When the earth was wet to the point of saturation, as it typically was in strawberry season, passing by car became impossible. So I walked. Sometimes with my grandmother, a few times alone. The damp earth plotted to suck me down or at the very least soil my shoes.

But I was dedicated to my love and far more clever than my foe. Leaping from rock to rock, with the occasional use of a stray board or cardboard box, I would always arrive clean; a fact that gave me great pride.

Once there, I examined every strawberry that I touched. Each one had to be perfect in my mind. Asymmetrical shapes, unusual lines, smallness, or unusual variations in color filled me with joy and excitement—these were the perfect berries.

Selections made, I’d hand the cash in my pocket over and return quickly to my grandmother’s yard. At first I’d lay in the tall unkept grass and eat the berries. But after a particularly startling encounter with a snake, I started climbing into a small tree that seemed to have several limbs perfectly designed for sitting. Once safely there, I’d begin teasing myself with the berries. The cool, sometimes even chilled air of spring and early summer evenings always heightened my enjoyment: the perfect fruit, the perfect weather, the perfect place.
Sometimes my grandmother would chase me out of the trees and into the house, where we’d use the remaining berries with a dessert or in a drink.

My strawberry rendez-vous is gone, turned into another cookie cutter urban sprawl disaster. The home my grandmother lived in at that point, is now a parking lot for a mini-mall. The entire ethnic enclave has been replaced with the culture of standardized, mass produced consumption.

These days my relationship with strawberries has changed, too. I buy them in stores or on rare occasions off the back of trucks along side the road. The journey is no longer magical, nor filled with mystery. But new sweetness is found in the eating. If I close my eyes, the juice and texture of the berries can take me back to places to which I can never return and to a person that I will never again see.

Here’s a little drink, I like to make.

You’ll need:
1 Banana
2 cups of strawberries
1 cup plain yogurt

The process is:
1. Put the banana and strawberries (tops cut off) into your food processor until blended well.
2. (this step is optional) If you like a smoother, less chunky drink, put the mixture through your food mill. The food mill with give you an extra smoothness that can be delightful.
3. Place the yogurt into the mixture to and blend in the processor. (Sometimes I like to add a tablespoon of honey for the heart health benefits.)
4. Chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator and serve.

About author
Alexander Hogan occupies his days teaching and conducting research as a professor of political science. Like many of us, he searches for the balance and peace in a hectic, materialistic world. He is a passionate home chef and foodie who resides with his wife and impressive house plant collection in Houston, Texas.
2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Like your strawberry t-shirt memory, there’s a picture of me at the ripe age of 2 shoving a gigantic strawberry in my little mouth.

    Strawberries are in season right now in the East (only one more week!) and I am totally savoring every last juicy bite. I’ve purchased as much as possible from my local farmers’ market and have frozen them. I think I might preserve them in jars as well.

    I make my morning smoothie like so:

    One banana
    A handful of (frozen) strawberries
    Homemade almond milk
    ~ 1.5 tbsp Almond butter
    ~ 2 tbsp Wheat germ
    ~ 1 tbsp Raw honey


    Thanks for the post!

  2. Great smoothie recipe. The almond butter sounds like a good touch.

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