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Strawberry Shortcake and Summer with Grandma

Janel (aka: NellieBellie) shares her beliefs that food has the power to create lasting memories, relationships, and moments.

As a child, I have memories of my siblings and I heading to my Grandmother’s house in the summer months. We loved going to Grandma’s! Being from the city, we viewed her home as being “in the woods” when truthfully, it was in a little neighborhood that allowed each home a nice, wooded lot. But as a child, it felt like a forest! And...my Grandma knew EVERYTHING about the forest. She knew which berries to pick; she knew how to make tea from bushes, she knew how to make a salad from ferns, she even could pick mushrooms that you could eat. She was, to us, a nature expert.

One of my favorite times was when the wild strawberries would come in, and she would take us out to pick them. Looking back, I realize that she was serving a dual purpose with these expeditions: one purpose was to keep her many grandkids entertained with the simple and inexpensive task of picking berries. Which we gladly did for the reward of strawberry shortcake. But more importantly, she was sneakily getting extra hands to pick those little berries. Because, if you don’t already know, wild strawberries can be quite small and tedious to pick. You need a great many of them even to make it worth your while. AND, it takes a very long time to get a great many. Unless you have your very own little pack of helpers, of course.

I would gladly pick those strawberries and fight the mosquitos if it meant my Grandma made strawberry shortcake which was my personal favorite treat she made.

My Grandma had BEST strawberry shortcake recipe. She made a simple biscuit by hand. She even patted out the dough and cut them out by hand and baked them in a cast iron pan. I LOVED watching that part. Sometimes she would even let us help, and the biscuit we cut would be the one we got to have. Then she would top those biscuits with simply sliced strawberries and homemade whipped cream. We didn’t even know that anyone else in the world knew how to make whipped cream. Truly...didn’t it all come from the store? Our Grandma was obviously smarter than the average.

When I grew up and had a kitchen of my own, one of the very first things I made was my Grandma’s strawberry shortcake. About 20 years ago I made my first batch of strawberry shortcake in my home. And then, every summer I took out my Grandma’s recipe and made it multiple times. Each time I rolled it out by hand, cut the biscuits by hand, and always made homemade whipped cream.

Now, this year my daughter went off to college for her first year. When she came home after finishing that first year away from home the first thing she asked for was Grandma’s strawberry shortcake.

As a mother, I can’t think of a more wonderful request. To take out the ingredients that I remember my Grandmother using and making the same dish I loved as a child, with my child.

Food has such magical qualities to transport memories and tradition along with each bite. The process of rolling out those biscuits, slicing the strawberries, and whipping the cream reminds me of those special moments with my Grandmother. I can see her, I can remember her expressions, her scolding me for stealing strawberries (which I catch my kids doing! Every time they do, it makes me a wee bit teary. I find myself scolding them in the same words my grandmother did.), and finally letting us kids eat our shortcake before any of the adults got theirs. She would say that “kitchen helpers get to eat first.” 

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