Menu of the Week: Strawberries…. a fruity memory

Bardenhagen Berries

I love strawberries!

Unless I do something with frozen strawberries, like make a margarita with them to make room in the freezer for this year’s batch, I will be passing on using any fresh ones. Why when I love them so? Because in Michigan, strawberries won’t be ripe for another month at the earliest. The strawberries in the store here are all from FL and CA and taste like cardboard.

My cousin and uncle have a strawberry farm in Leelanau and I spent many years working the strawberry packing season at 7 am. I even hoed all 10 acres three times one summer instead of waiting tables. I am used to eating my fill of strawberries all morning long, fresh from the field, unwashed, dew still attached. But now I don’t live as close, so I don’t eat as many. I miss them and look forward to them every year.

Packing strawberries involves taking the berries that have been picked into little wooden quarts from the field carrier and putting them into cardboard boxes that hold 8 quarts. These flats are delivered every morning to the local stores and restaurants.

My cousin doesn’t do a u pick. He has migrant families that arrive every year, eager for the season to start. He also has a top of the line migrant camp where they live for 4-5 months (they work the cherry and apple harvest too). These are ranch style houses with a long covered porch. The farm provides them with housing, water and electricity and work. I love walking by the camp when it is full of families. Loud Tejano music playing, terrific cooking smells wafting about, fresh tortillas everywhere, the kids are playing and people are laughing. Kinda like walking down a small street in Mexico. Most of these families have been coming back to the farm for years and are from Texas.

As you can see, strawberries hold quite a memory for me. Without the migrant labor, this farm would not function. I am thankful for them and the lives they lead. And thankful for strawberries. I really ate at least a quart a day for 3 weeks. Then when cherry season started, I ate a lot of those. I wouldn’t trade the life I had growing up for anything. Growing up on a farm gave me so many experiences that I will always tap into and cherish. At the time though, I would have loved to move back to the city, if you asked me when I was 12 after a day on the potato harvester in the hot dusty sun on a Saturday when ever one else was playing.

collage of fruit

Well now. After all of that, I guess I am going to go downstairs to the freezer and find a frozen bag of last year’s berries and whip them up with some rum or tequila. I owe them that. Often I pay them with freezer burn. Not really a fair exchange.

This week is a crazy one for me. We have our Michigan Envirothon state competition event in the upper Peninsula and I will be up there most of the week helping. The university hosting it already told me that they have some celiac students and are happy to provide me with gluten free options in their cafeteria. I perked right up with that one as I was not looking forward to working 12 -16 hour days and eating out of my cooler in the hotel.

Terri of the Faking it Gluten Free Style blog is hosting this week’s menu swap, so pop on over to her site and check out all the menus and ideas!

Saturday: Italian

Homemade frozen spinach and ricotta ravioli with marinara. Freezing your ravioli’s works great, unless you let them thaw slightly before tossing in boiling water. Then you have one giant ravioli dumpling as they are all stuck together.

Sunday: Korean take out

Yuk gae jang soup from the local Korean restaurant down the road. Homemade beef broth, strips of tender beef, green onions, zuc, mung bean noodles, onion and chile! This soup is comfort food to me, brothy and spicy hot. Survivor Finale night – popcorn for a snack.

Monday: Wing cook off. Why not? Everyone needs to do this once in a while. We will make some Buffalo style along with a homemade buttermilk blue cheese dressing and some Asian style with a lemon grass chile garlic coconut sauce. Maybe some spicy peanut dipping sauce. Tonight might be the right night for a frozen strawberry bevy.

Tuesday: Grilled fish (what ever looks good) with kumquat chutney/sauce (I still have to create this one), grilled polenta and grilled asparagus. Edited to change to blackened red snapper Caesar salad with grilled polenta croutons.  Kumquats will have to wait. I love me some kumquats!

Wednesday – Friday: Sault Ste Marie MI, no cooking for me!

Bardenhagen Berries!

i’m out