Lauren Bolden, Pie Bar
I have loved eating strawberries for as long as I can remember. I can still see my mom standing in front of the sink, carefully inspecting each strawberry and removing their little green hats with a paring knife. My oldest brother, Nicholas, and I would wait quite impatiently, rolling around on the linoleum floor behind her. We annoyed her just enough to slow down the process, but not enough for her to have to stop and scold us. She would place each berry in its new home: a light blue colander in the adjoining sink bay. With a flourish, she would finish the final berry, place it among its fellow ruby-colored fruits, and give them all a quick rinse with the sink sprayer.
We would scramble to our feet, all the while tripping over one another, in anticipation of what was to come. You see, we loved strawberries, but what we really loved was sugar. Enter, Sugar-Strawberries. After the careful ritual of preparing the berries, Mom would step aside and allow us to get to work. Nicholas would grab the bowls; he was taller, so he could reach them without having to climb on the counter-top. I would rush to grab the sugar from the pantry, and we would meet back at the sink bay that held our berries. We were quite a pair, working together like an experienced kitchen staff. Paper towels were pulled, two or three at a time, as the strawberries were delicately patted dry. Each berry needed a hint of moisture so the sugar had something to cling to, but not so much that the sugar would clump. It was an art form, and we had perfected it.
Sugar-Strawberries were always served one of two ways. First was the classic. We would pour a heaping mound of sugar into our bowls. When there was only just enough space between the rim of the bowl and the sugar, we stopped. Then we carefully placed strawberries on their bed of sweetness. Liberties could be taken here based upon mood or artistic integrity, but mostly, we just placed them in rows, pointy side up, butt side down in the sugar. The second and more whimsical way was to arrange the berries on the bottom of the bowl, and then to freely pour sugar over the tops until you could see strawberry no more. Of course, this created the dilemma of eating the last berry without realizing its significance. The entire experience would retroactively be ruined; so generally, we liked our Sugar-Strawberries served up the classic way.
Many years later, I get just as impatient as we wait for the strawberry crop to ripen each spring. Now, instead of Sugar-Strawberries, we use the early season berries for the homemade jam we carefully swirl into our Strawberry Buttermilk Pie. As the season progresses and the sun warms up, the sweet fruit-flavor deepens and fresh strawberries are piled into an all-butter crust for our Strawberries & Cream Pie. Each bite reminds me of a sweeter time, with Mom at the sink and Nicholas and I rolling around on the kitchen floor. A lot has changed since then, including how I take my strawberries. You see, I love strawberries, but what I really love is strawberry pie.