I never really enjoyed strawberry picking as a kid. My memories of strawberry fields are of being hunched low to the ground, engaged in the repetitive motion of picking berries off the low bushes and putting them into a basket, eating too many berries and getting a stomachache, being too hot under the sun, and then having to spend lots of time washing the berries and taking off their stems. Then again, I loved the things that you could do with strawberries. I loved eating them plain, or as part of a simple strawberry shortcake, or mixed with fresh rhubarb to make a delicious strawberry rhubarb pie. I loved how my grammy could take the berries and make them last for years by turning them into jams. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the pay-off was worth the labor.
Now, the role of accompanying my dad to the u-pick strawberry fields has fallen to my little sister, who admits to loving strawberries but claims her favorite berry is currently “cherries,” although I’m not sure if those are technically berries at all. Tonight, we sat down and ate angel food cake with strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream, and I felt a pang as I realized that I hadn’t helped in the process of the dish in any way. Suddenly, the idea of being hunched over in the heat of the sun repetitively picking berries and eating as many as I put into the basket was incredibly appealing.
My moment of reminiscing, bittersweet as it was, was sweetened not only by the dessert I was eating, but also by the idea that the tradition of being a strawberry picking family was continuing in my sister. Someday, she’ll sit at a kitchen table and realize that she misses those hot summer afternoons that she once, as an irritable preteen, loathed. Strawberry season doesn’t last for long, but it just serves as a reminder that nothing does. So take some time and give your children wonder, horrible memories of enforced labor by visiting a u-pick farm near you.