So, here’s the thing about strawberries at this time of year: They’re EVERYWHERE, here in Georgia. You can get them cheap at the grocery store, the farms are all advertising that they’re peaking, heck, we’re even growing them in containers on our deck.
Supermarket strawberries: Pretty cheap, right now, and decent-tasting. Not great, but not bad.
Deck strawberries: Completely free (we bought the plants last year), but taste like crap. Seriously. The brightest red, most gorgeous-looking berries? Taste like nothing. I will never buy these plants again. Yuck.
Farm strawberries: More expensive than the other two options (though not by much), but positively luscious, delicious, amazing, etc. If you’re willing to take the time to drive out there and pick, clearly the winner of the available options.
Plus, picking strawberries is FUN. Right? OF COURSE IT IS.
So we’d been planning to pick strawberries on Saturday morning. It would be a family activity, and particularly fun for my dad and stepmom because where they live, there’s still snow on the ground. (That may be an exaggeration, but it’s also possible that it’s not.) Anticipation was running high.
There was a small kerfluffle the day before because Monkey had a birthday party to get to on Saturday afternoon, and his loving sister MAY have tried to convince him that we planned to go pick while he was at the party, too bad so sad. Once that was straightened out and all was clarified, harmony resumed.
Until Saturday morning. Because, you see, Saturday morning dawned and brought with it… thunderstorms. The torrential downpour convinced us that surely we needed to change our plans for the day. That was disappointing, to be sure, but it’s not like the strawberries were going to disappear if we didn’t go that very day.
Of course, by the time we were getting Monkey ready to go to his party, the sun had been out for a couple of hours. It was drying out and looking like a pretty nice day, even. And I got to thinking that JUST MAYBE he wouldn’t mind if we DID go pick without him, given the choice between a party or the strawberry farm. He was a little disappointed but gave his blessing.
Otto took Monkey to the party, and the rest of us piled into the car and headed to the strawberry farm with every spare food storage container in the house. We were going to pick GALLONS of berries. We’d have berries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! We’d fill the freezer with ’em! It was going to be awesome.
We live about half an hour away from the farm. As we drove along, we saw some dark clouds in the distance. “Uh oh,” joked my dad, “I think maybe the storm left and is now waiting for us over at the strawberry farm!” And we all laughed, because THAT WOULD BE SILLY.
But by the time we got there, things were looking grim. It was very overcast and it was starting to sprinkle. Still, it was something like 82 degrees outside, so what’s a little rain? It’s not as though we would be too cold, or anything, right? We walked up and asked if we could still go pick. The girls who work the little stand out front looked at us like we’d just asked if it was okay to run up and down the rows naked.
“Well,” said one, finally, “It’s kind of, y’know, raining?”
“Yes, we noticed,” I said. “But it’s only drizzling. We don’t mind getting wet. Is it okay?”
“I dunno,” she said. “I guess?” (Ah, to be a teen, and to have every statement be a question again….)
We gathered our buckets and headed out into the field. We went straight to the far end, because that’s where no one had been, yet, and we figured we’d find plenty of bounty there. Chickadee was excited. My dad was cracking jokes. My stepmom said something about how we’d probably have to pick fast. I wiped a few raindrops off my glasses and hoped the rain would hold off.
We hunkered down to start pulling berries just as the rain got a little bit harder. “Well,” I thought to myself, “this is rather unpleasant.”
“I’m getting wet!” wailed Chickadee from further down the row.
“You won’t melt!” I called back, hoping I sounded more jovial than I felt.
And then the sky OPENED UP. You know the rain where it’s a single, relentless, pelting SHEET? And the air temperature drops about ten degrees in ten seconds? It was THAT rain. My father wisely ran to the forest lining the road and stood under what bit of cover the trees offered. Chickadee soon ran to join him. And finally I gave in and went, too.
My stepmom continued picking berries, a look of grim determination on her face. Eventually we were able to call her to come stand with us, and we all admired the half-bucket she’d managed to pick. And I pretty much felt like an asshole for dragging them on this trip that had now resulted in our standing in a forest half an hour from home, dripping and cold, in the middle of a thunderstorm.
After a few minutes it became clear that the storm wasn’t clearing any time soon, and we walked through the forest back to the stand up front, and asked if they had any pre-picked gallons for sale. They did. We bought two of them and came home. Everyone changed into dry clothes and ate some (delicious! very delicious!) berries.
And then, of course, because I can’t just leave well enough alone, I decide to make a pie.
The thing about me and baking is that I am an EXCELLENT baker of bread, because the more perfectionistic and futzing you are with bread dough, the better it turns out (generally speaking). But all of the qualities that make me an excellent bread baker make me the world’s worst pie crust maker, because the more you handle pie crust, the more it resembles shoe leather. I know this about myself, and still I made crusts, and still I overhandle them, and still I try to make pie, even though it should be against the law owing to my complete pastry impairment.
Oddly enough, the crust was just fine, if you don’t count all of the colorful words I said while making it. But the berries were so juicy, after an hour I had baked… a pie crust full of strawberry soup. That night after dinner I had to serve it to my family with a SPOON to fish it out of the pie plate.
Everyone assured me it was still delicious (I wouldn’t know, because I am still on this stupid elimination diet), but I know the truth. I made my parents come over a thousand miles to see us, and then I forced them to work in the fields during a torrential downpour, and then I served them sludge.
Thank goodness I have cute kids. Otherwise I doubt they’d ever come visit.