Let’s get a couple of punnets of strawberries, I say as we wend our way back from a trip to the seaside. We are in Northern California, spending a magical fortnight in Knights Valley, a secret nook deep in the serious winelands between Sonoma and Napa. We leave the misty, rocky Pacific coast and wend our way back along the Russia River, past Bodega Bay, up to the pretty town of Sebastapol and then through the Petrified Forest. There are farm shops en route, but the traffic is heavy and we decide to keep going. Then as we negotiate a tricky junction to pick up the road to Calistoga, we spot a figure standing by a display of strawberries and peaches. We pull off the road.
My request for two punnets is met with some surprise. I gesture towards the strawberries. Fifteen dollars for one, 25 dollars for two, says the young fruitseller. Wow, say I, that’s a lot for a punnet. He looks puzzled. Then the penny drops. It’s fifteen dollars for the tray containing some 20 punnets. I don’t want a tray, say I, because there’s only two of us. The fruitseller looks more mystified. He doesn’t sell trays, he says, only flats, gesturing to the box which I call a tray. I shake my head and turn away. He promptly offers me half a flat, demonstrating that they can easily be cut in two, for ten dollars.
Which is how I end up with a fridge full of strawberries, in a house which is wonderfully equipped for normal human beings who regard a holiday as an excuse to eat out most days, but not for someone who cannot resist an abundance of local produce. (For example, we drove all the way to Tuscany on our last visit so I could take my preserving equipment.)
However, we have large saucepans, an excellent blender, a very efficient freezer and, thanks to the ingrained British recycling habit, a motley collection of glass (individual jam pots, mayonnaise containers and a jam jar) and plastic boxes with lids. So what better way to spend the relative cool of a California evening than to whip up a batch of strawberry jam (ingredients measured in cups) and tubs of strawberry and honey yoghourt ice cream.
Oh, and we ate fresh strawberries too……
Note: there has been a very long gap since my last blog - stuff happens. I have given up any attempt to catch up chronologically, and will simply start putting fingers to keyboard as the spirit (and appetite) moves me.