Neben dem ganzen Kochen und Essen war ja der Hauptfokus meiner letzten Woche das Schreiben. Deswegen dachte ich, ich zeige Euch den Text, den ich am letzten Kurstag geschrieben habe. Er ist auf Englisch, aber da müsst Ihr jetzt durch. Die Aufgabe war, eine Erinnerung an eine besondere Mahlzeit aufzuschreiben.
When I was a kid, we used to eat those defrosted strawberries – still very cold, sometimes even a bit frozen on the inside, limp on the outside, swiming in a mixture of icewater and juice, topped with whipped cream sweetened with vanilla sugar – out of flat glass bowls for dessert each Boxing Day. They were meant to enhance the festiveness of a meal of only leftovers from Christmas Day. To most people, half-frozen mushy strawberries might not seem like a special treat at all. For me, this dessert was the climax of all the Christmas delicacies, my favourite Christmas food.
I am a summer child through and through. I was born on June 21st, the longest day of the year and the official beginning of summer. I thrive on sunny days and colourful, fragrant gardens. This is my time of the year and I feel betrayed and somewhat bereft of a part of myself once summer is over and the cold, the grey skies and the drizzle set in that will eventually lead into the darkness of winter – a darkness I tend to feel both inside and out. Except for when Christmas came around with its routines and rituals that shed light on those long winter nights even for our non-religious family.
The strawberries we had for Christmas were those that were left over each summer, after we had dived into our collective strawberry craziness and had indulged in the red, juice sweetness of the berries for weeks. Our garden included a large field of strawberries which provided for our every need: strawberries to accompany our muesli in the morning, strawberries to be blended into milkshakes and put on cakes for our afternoon snack and strawberries picked right before dinner each night to eat soaked in cold milk with a spoonful of sugar as an evening treat.
We ate as much as we could possibly stuff into our bellies. We also made jam out of several kilos of them. And amongst all this strawberry craze, my mom had the good sense of putting a few handfulls aside and hide them in the freezer for Christmas.
Come Christmas time, I’d usually have forgotten about the treasure in our freezer until the moment my mom took it out and left it on the counter to thaw. As soon as I noticed the strawberries, I became happy and excited and could not wait. I always grabbed at least one and put it in my mouth when it was still completely frozen. To me, they tasted of summers past, of running barefoot over the grass and being tingled by a thistle here and there. Of sun-soaked skin, of plunging into grandma’s pool, of staying up late without anyone sending us to bed and – of course – of my birthday parties in the garden. I tasted both a remembrance of our happy past and a promise for our future: Yes, winter would eventually end and yes, my time of the year would come again. Today, conjuring up the taste in my mind is also a celebration of us as a family and of our life together in this remote house on the edge of the forest.
Strawberries have a special place in my heart, probably because their season coincides with the time of my birth. When my mom was pregnant with me, her gynacologist told her to stay away from strawberries as they could potentially be full of parasites. My mom did not listen. Both she and I craved strawberries. It was the season, after all, and her genetic memory told her (and me inside her womb) to devour as many as she could.
Once I was out of the womb, strawberries became associated with birthday gifts and celebrations. They were on every birthday cake I ever had and I distinctly remember being dressed in a blue-and-white striped dress for my birthday and taking a strawberry cake with me to kindergarten to share with my friends. As I got home, the dress was full of red spots and essentially ruined. But that did not matter, I did not like dresses anyway.
A lot has changed since then. I now like wearing dresses and strawberries can be bought fresh or frozen all year round. The house and garden where I grew up are both gone from my life. Strangers live there now and what I call home nowadays only exists in my memory. And although we still get together at Christmas and although my parents still have those flat glass bowls, we will never be able to have these strawberries again. It could never taste the same, so we don’t even try.