For my beloved Brother who introduced me to the art of cooking, who taught me how to taste and truly love food. Without him I'd never be able to be where I am today.

July 14, 2012

White Hearted Divas

In a country like Finland where seasonality dictates nature’s supply to the highest degree, some raw materials become very rare and special visitors. For three quarters of the year there’s no sign of them, and then suddenly, they’re everywhere. But they only enchant us with their presence for a very short while. Finnish strawberries are like that. True divas, what can I say.

The first strawberries can be spotted at open-air markets usually as early as May. The overly big and hard, suspiciously shiny and red, often Spanish antecedents are nothing but phony wannabes compared to the real thing.

My birthday is in the beginning or July and my Mum used to always make me a strawberry cream cake for my birthday. In July, these luscious fruits reach climax in Finland. This year, like the year before, I was away on my birthday and grieving. I missed my Mum’s special birthday delight. Luckily, I wasn’t that far from my native country this year, no further that on the other side of the Baltic Sea where my dear friend Julia took care of my strawberry needs on my birthday.

After a tiresome day at work, she took me to an exquisite location, an old manor by the sea and ordered us a bottle of perfectly chilled Riesling. Two glasses of Riesling later, I had almost forgot about my red cravings. We were lost in bubbly laughter and utter joy, as Julia suddenly excused herself. She was a way for a while and I got a bit worried. But knowing her, I simple poured myself another glass of the heavenly wine, sat back and relaxed. She would return eventually.

Julia returned all right, but not alone. With her hands behind her back she told my to close my eyes, open my mouth and promise to not peak. I couldn't help but obey her commands.

What a sensational oral explosion! I cried out of exuberance and all the while Julia was taking my picture. She knew my expression would be priceless! She couldn’t have possibly made me happier in that very moment.

A week later, I was back in Finland busy around another strawberry related activity. Like every year until this day, approximately one week after my birthday, my Mum and I go to an organic strawberry farm to pick a stash for the upcoming fall and winter. Sure, there’s nothing better than the freshest of the freshest strawberries eaten only seconds after picking, but boy does home made strawberry mash taste divine on oatmeal porridge on a rainy October morning… the stash is a must.

This time though, I couldn’t join her picking, so I promised to do the cleaning, sorting, cutting, mashing etc. The strawberry massacre, as I like to call it. Old habits die hard, mash a few, eat a few, one in my mouth, one into a Tupperware. No wonder I end up feeling sick if half of the 7-10 kg of strawberries we pick each summer end up in my stomach…

As I was doing my job, I realized how special each single strawberry is, even on the outside, but most of all on the inside. I found myself utterly mesmerized by their beauty. As I cut the fruit in half, I realized that I cut into something very delicate.  Each diva had its own distinctively shaped white heart on the inside. Sure, I already knew exactly how strawberries look on the inside, but never had I really studied them to detail.

This epiphany simply proved an important point I often wish to highlight: When you take the time to stop for those crucial couple of seconds while doing something that you’ve done a million times, you almost always surprise yourself sensing something completely new. It’s so worth it and it make you so happy. A simple everyday thing revealing it’s special potential.

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