You can always smell strawberries before you see them. I used to eat them by the pint when I was younger, bit into them until my teeth reached the green. I'd throw the stems back into the plastic container and go onto the next. My fingers looked bloody, my belly felt full. It was summertime then, I would have been maybe ten at the most. Strawberries smell like summertime, where every day is a languid opportunity to stretch on the black vinyl of your trampoline or sit and begin your first novel.
Everything was replaceable then, I didn't understand the effects of hunger, of any sort of finiteness when it came to what I wanted. The sun would rise again and the dew would dry. Nothing ever seemed to end in the summertime. It all came back in the morning. I would ride my bike to a creek bed where I saw an old pack of Camels laying half-crushed under a rock. I kept that half-empty box of Camels tucked between my mattress and the box spring for four more years, they turned to powder when I finally got the courage to smoke one.
Cracks grew into this Elysium. I tried my hand at the art of kintsugi to fill those cracks with sunlight. I realized the world was rationed--every eyelash, every goosebump, every quarter I put into the payphone in a Greyhound station in Dallas has been rationed out for me. I felt this lesson when I didn't have enough money to get a hotel in Belgium, when I had a stranger drive me to the airport and I promised I would keep in touch. I felt this when I used a student discount program to take a free train out to the countryside and even the sky scattered an opalescent green like dragonfly wings. I felt this lesson with palpable certainty when I ate half of my friend's sandwich in the Dublin airport, a week spent drinking free beers bought for me in exchange for fake numbers and trying to call my mother from other people's cell phones. A week I spent ignoring my desire to run away or be home in Pennsylvania, never able to decide which one I wanted more.
I thought everything I learned when I was at my poorest. I thought about how I wished to go back to those summers, crucified to a trampoline and staining my fingers and shirt in overripe strawberry juice when I was sitting on trains and at the terminal of another discount airport. I made bread with these memories in mind. I'm still learning that even memories are finite and I've been broken around the edges for forgetting. I realize that there is gold laced into the cracks of my fingertips and can still smell those hidden cigarettes when I'm about to go to sleep.
Strawberry Irish Soda Bread
This is truly such a simple quick bread to make that has a nice solid crumb and almost a cakiness to it. I highly recommend baking this in a covered enamel pot (doesn't have to be a dutch oven..in fact, you'll probably burn some of the bottom if you use one). It will add some steam to the dough, allowing for a fluffier inside and crumbier outside. See further notes in recipe.
- 3 cup flour
- 3 tablespoon brown sugar, dark
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon shortening
- 2 tablespoon butter, softened (preferably homemade, as it was here)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk (reserved from butter above)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 4 strawberries, sliced or in chunks
- Cream cheese or whipped cream as spread
- In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, powder, soda, and salt. Repeat.
- Pour dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse once to blend again.
- Next add butter and shortening and pulse until fats are mixed and the size of peas.
- In the feeding tube, add eggs one at a time with the motor running. Then add the vinegar.
- Pat out onto a floured board until a flat disc. Put strawberries on a single layer onto disc and fold gently in on itself, careful not to crush berries
- Pat gently into a round disc and wrap in plastic wrap for thirty minutes in the fridge. While doing so, preheat oven to 350*F
- Remove plastic and put either on baking sheet or in a covered enamel pot (preferred). Bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool briefly before eating.