THE STRAWBERRIES ARE good now. They were good the most recent time I bought them, anyway. Who knows if they'll still be good next time?
It's almost annoying to eat a good strawberry, because strawberries are so consistently, reliably bad. They are, by far, the worst fruit in the everyday supermarket inventory. Thanks to the miracle of air freight, it is now possible to buy strawberries all year round, as long as you don't want to eat them. They are guaranteed to be mushy, flavorless, and seconds away from blooming into mold, if they aren't already moldy when you unpack their plastic clamshell.
Every actual fruit must exist in relation to some ideal version of the fruit. There is no mistaking a February blueberry, flown in from the Southern Hemisphere and kept in the fridge, for a blueberry scooped out of the cup of a blueberry rake in Maine in August. But the experience of eating the chilled, firm, imported blueberry is recognizably related to the experience eating the soft, sun-warmed blueberry—an inferior but acceptable substitute, under the circumstances. I don't mind the off-season blueberry, even if I'm not in a hurry to eat it.
But the supermarket strawberries might as well not exist. They are as far from the satiny, sugary, fragrant strawberries of a summer evening as eating a candle is from eating a slice of birthday cake—further, since the candle might have some sweet frosting stuck to it. The strawberry industry would be fraud on an immense scale, if "fraud" didn't imply that the people making money were preying on some false beliefs. It's not possible to believe in strawberries. Entire years go by when I never bother to buy them at all.
Late last month, though, my resistance wore out, or the grocery delivery company's copywriters came up with something that made me give in. Possibly I was a little desperate in the dead zone between the end of citrus season and the arrival of stone fruit. Against my misgivings, I ordered some jumbo berries—they arrived in a cardboard box, not the dread vented clamshell—and I barely got a taste of them before everyone else had eaten them up. I ordered more. They were still delicious. I ordered another round, branching out into the smaller ones. My luck held. If I had any sense, I'd walk away while I'm still winning. Someday soon, I'll get a lousy batch; that is, things will go back to normal. Will I be disappointed, or relieved?
SANDWICH RECIPE DEP’T.
WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of a select sandwich from Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes, Copyright 1916, now in the public domain for the delectation of all, written by Marion Harris Neil, M.C.A., former Cookery Editor, The Ladies’ Home Journal, author of How to Cook in Casserole Dishes, Candies and Bonbons and How to Make Them, Canning, Preserving and Pickling, and The Something-Different Dish.
10 or 12 strawberries
1/4 lb. (1/2 cup) butter
6 1/2 ozs. (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoonful strawberry extract
Cream the butter until soft; add the sugar, the strawberries mashed, and strawberry extract. Mix all well together and chill on ice. Cut the crusts from fresh bread slices, spread with the mixture, and wrap in a cloth for several hours. The bread can be rolled up after being spread with the mixture, or it can be cut into fancy shapes.
Another Method.—Cut some thin slices of bread. Spread one-half with whipped cream and sprinkle over with sugar. Slightly butter the remaining slices, and cover with sliced strawberries. Press the two slices together.
If you decide to prepare and enjoy this sandwich, kindly send a picture to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buy local if you possibly can. Strawberries can be grown widely enough that there's a local strawberry season, if only a brief one, in much of North America. (Here in British Columbia, it's usually from about now through July. This year, it's late, because this spring has been cold. In an exceptionally good year like last year, it runs through August.) In my experience, locally grown strawberries tend to be immensely better than the sorry specimens picked way too early and shipped in from California.
As terrible as those are, for being "the worst fruit in the everyday supermarket inventory", they get serious competition from tomatoes. Fortunately, tomatoes too are grown locally in much of North America.