It is the first fruit of the season that allows for picking, one that had led to a farm by the mountains many years ago, one that still results in the first drive of the season to the farm, and one that invariably gets my wife talking about one of her favorite fruits in America.
“Come here, let’s focus on these bushes” says a father to his daughter, “let’s distribute ourselves and pick as many as we can” says another parent, “pick only the reddest ones, and leave the others to ripen on the bush” says one other person to his child, and I looked at another couple and said “ …good idea to use a large container instead of many individual pint-sized ones to collect the picked fruit”. Everybody was eager to pick fruit and they did so at a steady pace as the slow crunching sound of car tires rolling up the hill on the narrow, winding, dirt road, kept increasing. I felt good that I was almost done before the crowd. I had arrived at opening time only to find a bunch of cars already parked, but the rows upon rows of bushes were still filled with fruit that I didn’t have to squat and move too long to fill-up my containers. I walked around a bit before I got back into my car for the drive home when it struck me how absolute and distinct the fragrance of strawberries were, just as much as it seemed to remind my wife who, the minute I opened the door to the house said, “I smell strawberries”.
The school project was to make a collage about the UK for which my grandmother helped collect pictures. Of the pictures that still stay in my mind is a bottle of cream from Devon, one that had family immediately reminisce about their trip to England as they described just how luxurious and delicious clotted cream was.
Clotted cream as the name suggests is literally cream that is prepared in a manner that results in clots on the surface, and in a testament to the lovely grass that the cows graze on the cream also has a slight golden-yellow tone to it. While regular cream has a butterfat content of 30-36%, clotted cream has butter fat in the range of 55 to 60 %, thereby remaining a soft creamy solid at room temperature, and needless to say a small amount goes a long way.
Recently, the county of Cornwall in south-west England filed for and was granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status for the clotted cream it produces. The application in support of origin cites literary sources from the 17th century that refer to travelers praising Cornish clotted cream or clouted cream as it was called back then. More recently, the neighboring county of Devon that is also popular for its clotted cream cited research that revealed the production of cream to have originated in a Devon abbey around the 11th century1. This finding only accelerated attempts by the county to also file for PDO status that apart from being a matter of local pride also brings along positive economic consequences.
The traditional and the most popular context one might say in which this cream is used is with strawberry preserve, and scones. Should there be any doubt as to the star in this dish, the name cream tea – routinely used in the UK to refer to something that can be eaten, and not to be confused with cream in tea - puts it to rest.
As it turned out one of the first desserts my wife taught herself to make after we got married, and the first time I had tasted them homemade, were scones served with plenty of strawberry preserve and clotted cream.
While scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve may be widely recognized as an English tradition, the people of Devon and Cornwall who take pride in their contribution to this tradition disagree on the presentation: in Devon, the proper way to assemble a scone involves first spreading the clotted cream followed by adding strawberry preserve while in Cornwall the cream goes on top of the preserve1.
At home, I like the combination of strawberry preserve and clotted cream on scones regardless of the order, while for my wife the cream and scones are just vehicles for the strawberries that are front and center the focus.
How do they compare: the traditional manner of eating a dish versus choice based on individual taste preference? When does one give way to the other? And, should it?