The wise scientists are saying that we should get outdoors and into some sunlight on a regular basis. It might be time to open our front doors a crack, and step cautiously outside, following state-mandated COVID-19 requirements. They say that the coronavirus doesn’t seem to spread easily in the great outdoors, although we should be mindful of social distancing, masks and hand sanitation. I say some sunshine is just what the doctor has ordered. I’ll be wearing a hat, my ubiquitous mask, and will be slathered in sunscreen this weekend as I track down a You-Pick-It strawberry farm. It is an opportunity to get out of the house, and go someplace other than the petri dish that is our weekly visit to the grocery store.
If you can’t visit a farm, lots of farmers markets are devising safe contactless ways for us to produce and grocery shop. Call ahead, or visit their websites, so you can support our local food producers. You do not want all those luscious strawberries to go to waste!
A few weeks ago we bought some strawberries (from California) at the grocery store. I have a limited repertoire of strawberry recipes, because why mess with perfection? Strawberry shortcake has always seemed the natural answer for what to do with a couple of pints of strawberries. And like my mother before me, I reached for the trusty box of Bisquick that always stands on a shelf in the pantry. Did I check the expiration date on the box? Of course not. I hate to admit this, for once the child was right.
We laugh that one of our children always checks expiration labels. I don’t worry about them much, because things seem to fly off the shelves with great and alarming regularity. He checks religiously, assiduously, and obsessively, one might say. I guess he was deeply scarred by eating something that was stale once, and now it is his one of his weird character traits. (Obviously I have bigger things to worry about – like what the heck did I plant in all those little seed starters? The Sharpie marker label faded away, and now I have several pots of burgeoning mystery plants, without a clue as to what will emerge once they all bloom. That’s a real worry.)
For our strawberry shortcake dessert I mixed up a batch of Bisquick shortcake dough (following the recipe on the side of the box, as one does), rolled it out and cut out six little rounds with the ancestral biscuit cutter, and popped those babies in the oven. I cleaned the strawberries, sliced and sugared them before pouring water (with a little lemon juice) over the slices to lightly macerate them. I whipped the cream, and enjoyed licking the beaters by myself, because I don’t have any pesky know-it-all children here to share with.
And then the oven timer went off. Ding. Flat-as-pancake shortcakes lay sullenly on the cookie sheet. Back into the oven for another couple of minutes, just to see if they needed a little more baking time. Nope. Nothing was going to fix these now dark brown and scorched hockey pucks. They were as leaden and heavy as if I had attempted sourdough bread again. And they sailed right into the trash.
We had delicious strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. Then I sadly examined the Bisquick box playing Kitchen CSI. In bold type there was a Best-Served-By date of 2016. Whoops. So I have to take it all back, Tall One. You were right. Check the damn dates.
Last weekend I tried a Dorie Greenspan recipe for “Tumble-Jumble Strawberry Tart” which was just divine. It was basically a dense lemony shortbread, slathered with strawberry jam, fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream. The cake is not supposed to rise. I managed to avoid more humiliation until I can get back to the grocery store and buy a new box of Bisquick. Or this might take the place of the old family secret recipe, since not only was it delicious, you can make it ahead of time, and freeze the crust. Genius. It is a new take on one of our favorite springtime desserts. Imagine trying this with peaches, or raspberries, or any seasonal fruit. Things may be looking up!
Go forth and frolic in the sun. For a little while anyway.
“The human body is vapor materialized by sunshine mixed with the life of the stars.”