Leave Strawberries Alone

Salt-and-Pepper Strawberries

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I ate my first real strawberry at 19.

I’d eaten red fruits, covered with crunchy minuscule seeds and topped with a green leaf collar my whole life. Big and firm, their flavor ranged from mild and watery to puckeringly tart, any time of the year. They had white cores and fuzzy hollow centers. They came in plastic containers labeled “strawberries,” and I thought they were my favorite fruit. “S, my name is Sacha; I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing Strawberries.”

But those fruits were not strawberries. I had my first of the real thing on the side of the road in Sonoma Valley, California. It was petite, plump, and deep red, and its soft flesh squished easily between my fingers. The small plot of land wasn’t one of the vast strawberry wastelands of Salinas, where workers toil with no reward. There was just a hard-working family, a field, and well-treated workers. Sun-tanned hands passed the quart of California berries toward me, and I bashfully traded the hand’s owner some rumpled bills out of my own pale, smooth hands for the sweet bounty. She very much was her hands—those hands told a story of hard work and hot sun, and mine had nothing to show but sloth and my cold-weather roots.

I ate the berries, all the berries, right there in minutes. Ruby-red from edge to center, their juices ran down my mouth, staining my lips, my chin, my hands, my clothes. Nope; if this was a Strawberry, I had never previously had one.  Continue reading


Pistachio Ice Cream with Roasted Strawberry Swirl

pistachio ice cream strawberry swirl
Maggie’s Ice Cream is a quaint-looking but always-hopping ice cream shop on the main strip in downtown Hyannis, Cape Cod. Well, it was. It was briefly named Laura’s and has been called Katie’s since 2002. But it will always be Maggie’s to me; no after-dinner stroll on a Cape weekend was complete without a scoop or cone from the house-like shop, with its white tables and expansive front porch. Maggie’s probably didn’t have the best ice cream, but it was homemade and satisfying after a day full of sand and sun. [ed note: Massachusetts, and specifically Boston and The Cape, is known as the unofficial ice cream capital of the US. How lucky am I?] The young teens, who at the time, seemed like adults, were always kind and patient, even though I rarely made a decision by the time it was my turn to order.

My dad was easy, and he’d rarely step foot into the shop: He always got pistachio, a departure from the coffee or mocha flavors he ordered everywhere else. It was “real” pistachio—dubbed that only because it wasn’t radioactive green, but, instead, a milky beige. I thought pistachio seemed so adult and sophisticated, European even, so I happily stole bites from my dad’s cup. I was a mini elitist: I knew never to touch green pistachio ice cream. My parents taught me the important stuff.

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