Audrey's Strawberry Shortcake Adventure
A Bittersweet Bonus Scene
Copyright Sarina Bowen 2017, 2018, 2019
The first time I ever bought organic strawberries at a Vermont farmstand, I felt like a thief.
I was on my way to pick up some chicken feed for my boyfriend, Griff. I don’t mind being sent to the feed store, as long as Griff tells me exactly what to buy. (Who knew there’d be a dozen different kinds of chicken feed? The chicks need theirs in a dusty format for their tiny beaks, while the layers need calcium mixed in with their pellets. It’s all very complicated.)
Anyway, the grain store is kind of a hoot. You pay for your fifty pound bags of feed at the counter. Then you back up the truck to the loading dock. You hand over your receipt to a burly guy in the warehouse, and you can watch his muscles flex while he hauls your bags of grain onto the flatbed.
Really, life could be worse.
So there I was, bumping down a country road in June. Since I’d made my haphazard arrival in Vermont last July, I’d missed this gentle season, when the fruit trees bloom and the frogs sing in the ponds while they look for a mate. Griff says they’re singing, “Hey baby. Hey baby. Hop over here.” They sound like birds to me. Everyone laughed when I thought they were birds. (Just another moment of me behaving like the stupid city girl!)
Now I drove Griff’s big truck awfully slowly, because I already have a reputation for car trouble, and because I wanted to admire the view. And that’s when I spotted it—a little table under an oak tree at the foot of someone’s long gravel driveway. The table was covered with perfect little paper cartons of strawberries.
I slammed on the brakes. There was a squeal, and the sound of metal against metal was briefly terrifying. If I ended up in yet another Vermont ditch, Griffin would get very grumpy. Luckily I know some very good ways of calming him down, most of which involve stripping him of his clothing. But he was a busy guy and I could understand why pulling his truck out of the ditch was not the best use of his afternoon.
Luckily, the truck came to a stop. My heart was thudding. But it wasn’t thudding so badly that I’d forgotten those berries. I opened the truck’s door and jumped down onto the dirt road. There wasn’t another car—let alone another person—anywhere around. Just me and a table full of freshly picked strawberries. I sort of snuck up on them, as if they might be a mirage. If I had twelve quarts of berries, you can bet I wouldn’t just leave them there unguarded.
They were smaller than the tasteless berries I was used to seeing in Boston grocery stores. I bent over the table and inhaled. And—wow! The scent was dizzying. Before I could stop myself, I’d plucked one out of the fullest carton and bitten off the end. Fruity goodness exploded in my mouth.
I pinched the green top off the berry and ate the rest of it, moaning a little. Nobody heard me except a chickadee peering out from a nearby shrubbery.
The berries would be mine. Or at least some of them. A tiny hand-lettered sign was taped to the tables surface. Berries, $4. Put money in jar.
A jar! In Boston, the berries, the cash, the jar and the table itself would be stolen inside of ten minutes. But this was Vermont, and things were done a little differently here.
“Four bucks,” I said to the chickadee. “They mean per quart, not for all of them. Right?”
The chickadee cocked its head, considering the question. It gave no answer, though.
I checked my wallet. I had twenty bucks. Luckily I wasn’t expected to pay for the chicken feed—that went on Griff’s credit card. I opened the rusty little jar, where there were a couple of $1 bills, probably intended for change.
But I wasn’t the kind of girl who could leave without bankrupting herself on home grown strawberries. So I put my twenty into the jar and tightened the lid. “Guard that,” I told the chickadee. Then I carefully transported five quarts of berries to the seat of Griff’s truck before climbing up and starting the engine.
With a wave to the bird, I trundled off, feeling mildly guilty. I’d paid full price, so I knew the cops wouldn’t show up later to arrest me for berry larceny. But still. Twenty dollars for the freshest, most delicious food in the world.
It ought to be illegal.
Here’s what I made with some of my ill-gotten treasure:
Audrey’s Strawberry Shortcake:
I like to mix some whole-wheat flour in with white flour for this recipe. The whole-grain flour has a nuttier flavor that tastes good with the sweet berries.
· 1.5 cups (200 g) all-purpose flour or a combination of white & whole wheat
· 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
· 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
· 6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) (85 g) butter
· 1 egg, slightly beaten
· 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) (115 g) sour cream or unsweeted yogurt
· 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) milk
· 6 cups sliced strawberries (1 kg)
· 1 heaping Tablespoon extra sugar for berries
· Whipped cream for topping
Preheat to 400f / 200c, grease baking sheet or cover with parchment paper. In a food processor, or in a bowl, mix the first five dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda) together.
Cut the butter into ten pieces and either add it to the food processor and blend, or cut it into the dry ingredients, combining by hand until the mixture resembles gravel.
Stir the egg, sour cream or yogurt and the milk together in another bowl. Add the mixture to the other bowl and process (mix) quickly until just combined. Dough will be thick and sticky. Heap spoonfuls onto the prepared pan, making eight portions. Bake 15 to 17 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack.
Meanwhile, toss the sliced berries with the extra sugar and allow them to macerate. If the berries are too sweet for your taste, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice is nice.
To serve, slice the biscuits the flat way and top with strawberries. Add whipped cream and serve.