The smell followed me around all morning. Their summer sweetness wafted back and forth across the path as I pounded my feet along the asphalt through the sunny breeze of morning. It was there at the farm stand, permeating the air, overtaking the fresh cilantro, basil, and mint. Then again in the car they released a pungent fragrance, a constant reminder of the delicious flavors to come. The perfume bathed the interior of the car, lingering on my salivary glands, conjuring culinary fantasies. They are reeking with joy because it is their time.
Strawberries. When they are gone, they are replaced by stunt doubles. Giant and bland, with only a hint of fragrance. They come from Mexico, South America, and California. A special breed with an indestructible fiber skeleton. They are swollen with water, because bigger sells better, but the memories are more dilute.
The small and sweet little New Hampshire or Minnesota berries would never survive a flight across the country. They are the brilliant red queen of the farm. They command attention, refusing to let me leave them be. There is no need for dressing them up with cream and shortcake, balsamic vinegar, sugar or lime. On their own each bite comes packed with precious childhood memories- Young birthday parties, Saint Mark’s Mayfair, Mrs. Vandyke’s fruit tart, breakfasts with my cousins in Maine, sailing on the AJ Meerwald, last year’s 4th of July salad.
Somewhere between who I thought I was and who I think I want to be, is who I am and who I have always been. In the flavor and the fragrance of strawberries, I can find that girl. She is sitting on a rock, her legs warmed against the dark stone. The sun sets on the horizon, the salty air blows by, and she wears strawberry stains on her shirt.
Strawberry Thyme Salad
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp tamari (soy sauce)
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3/4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp balsamic
1 tsp Florida pepper (Penzy’s) or ground black pepper and lemon zest
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 small head green leaf, red leaf, or romaine lettuce (probably romaine is best)
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
Christina’s vote: “This salad made me want to know things”