Supermarket strawberries are “all pout and no kiss”, says Tom Parker Bowles in Country Life. “They promise so much and offer nothing.” It’s because supermarkets are obsessed with making the berries look beautiful and long-lasting. Flavour takes a back seat. Thankfully, growing your own is straightforward. Just pop them in pots, “using straw to keep the fruit off the damp soil and netting them to hold those birds at bay”. Those who have neither the space nor the time should nip to a pick-your-own farm, where the fruit will be perfectly ripe.
But how best to eat them? You can add things – port works, as does a crack of black pepper – but when you find the perfect berry it seems a shame to muddle it with anything else, “save a dusting of sugar and a great dollop of cream”.
Real strawberries and cream
Take a deep, cold bowl half full of double cream. (An old punch bowl is perfect for this purpose.) Whip the cream slightly, but do not make it too stiff.
Then, drop into it as many strawberries as it will hold, the smaller ones being put in whole, the larger cut up. Stir as you go, mashing slightly, and when the cream really won’t cover another strawberry, leave it to stand for an hour. It will then be a cold level pale-pink cream. Crust it over with dredged white sugar and serve forth… on a green lawn, under shady trees by the river.
Enough of your sauce
Plain food is the best food, but these days you’re hard pressed to find it, says Ray Connolly in The Oldie. “The restaurant world is flooded with funny food.” Menus are a maze, filled with mystical dishes I can scarcely understand, let alone order. Recently I saw “taïnori chocolate with hazelnut voatsiperifery pepper” advertised on a dessert menu. I passed.
Worse still, “whenever my eyes alight on a dish I fancy, I find that it comes with some kind of alien sauce”. Purées, foams, emulsions: I hate them all. “Sauces are disguises created by self-aggrandising establishments to hide what they are serving.”
It’s because we’ve elevated cooks with big hats into chefs. Today they’re fully fledged celebrities – “forever outdoing each other with their condiments and seasoning until we have no idea what we’re eating”. It’s exhausting. And so I find myself yearning for the blessed days of meat and two veg. That’s what food should be: “Simple and perfect.”
🇫🇷 🇬🇧 🥣 Politically, the French revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre and the late Duke of Westminster didn’t have much in common. But they were both unfussy eaters, says Connolly. Robespierre, who sent hundreds of French aristocrats to the guillotine, sustained himself on just one bowl of gruel a day. And the Duke of Westminster, despite his billions, never wanted much more than an omelette in the evening.