I am really excited to share my new adventures in exploring English culture and the English countryside in the summer, with you!
A few weeks ago, we organized a barbecue with some friends. It was great! Although really last minute, I had enough time to throw together a refreshing rice salad and cut the remaining half of a lavender rhubarb curd tart. We ate, we drank, we laughed and exchanged many many food stories. Somewhere in the middle of those stories, it came up that I write a food blog with you. Of course, that sparked a whole array of new conversations, and one in particular that turned out influencing my next 3 weekends.
- Y: Hey, you know, there are some pick your own farms around here. They aren’t really far, I have been meaning to go. Would you be interested in going?
- Me: What is a pick your own farm??
- Y: You know, you can go and pick your own fruit…
- Me: There is such a thing?? What kinds of things can you pick?? Where is it??
- Y: I think there are many things you can pick: asparagus, peas, strawberries…
And the rest is history. As soon as I heard the word strawberries is was sold. The next day was a gorgeous day, and J was going to be in the library all day, so i got onto Google and found out that we are surrounded by PYO farms.
View PYO – Pick Your Own in Oxfordshire in a larger map
I walked through wheat fields, next to highways, next to meadows, it was really a great day to be outside. Finally after a good 2 hour(unnecessary walk, because the train takes you right next to the farm), I arrived. I felt a tremendous happiness and exhilaration by being there. I felt energized and filled with wonder.
Armed with a plastic basket, I walked over to the strawberry patch.
OH MY GOSH!!!!!!! I cannot describe to you the mesmerizing smell that emanated from the strawberry bushes. It was aromatherapy, in its most real sense: warm, earthy, sweet strawberry heaven! And just peering at you, little scarlet notes underneath the thick green foliage. I had never seen strawberries, it seems, until that point. On the stem, their skin is really shiny, deep red and perfectly contrasted by the bright green color of the rest of the plant. So I started picking each strawberry, each more perfect than the previous. When I was finished, I had 1 kilo of perfect strawberries, and I do mean perfect. And then came the hour of truth, their taste…
It was unlike anything I had ever tasted. Hands down, the best, most undeniably strawberry-y strawberries I have ever had. Seriously, I know that at times I might exaggerate, but I challenge you to taste one a disagree with me. They are ridiculous!! J and I devoured the whole thing in one sitting, they were so good.
And thus, started my new hobby/obsession. Each time, bringing more and more people, to the places where real strawberries can be found. More importantly, starting to really do something about getting out of the bland, season-free, flavor preying super markets with the unchanging square footage for apples, oranges and bananas. This way, little by little we can all remember where our food comes from, what seasons bare what, and what it should all really taste like.
Having said this, it is really a shame to cook these strawberries into anything, as they are so succulent fresh. But what better way to enjoy strawberries, than in a drink on a sunny day, while punting!
What is punting? Punting is a very Oxford (… and Cambridge) thing to do on a beautiful, sunny summer day. Basically 5 people are allowed per boat, one person stands at the back steering and pushing the boat down the river using a 3m long wooden pole. This is not only fun, but hilarious whenever a new punter takes charge of the boat. The first 15 minutes, are pure slap-stick comedy or the poor boat ramming into the riverbanks. It takes about 3 hours, during which the boat is tied up for 1 hour, while a picnic and drink is had at the pub at the head of the river… after all we are in England!
Fortunately, the pub was still closed when we arrived, so we could enjoy our own delicacies in the comfort of their wooden picnic tables, worry-free! For the picnic, we brought Pimm’s as our refreshing alcoholic drink (What? …it was past noon, that is acceptable drinking time in my book!).
What is Pimm’s? Pimm’s is an alcoholic drink which was created as a solution to gin. In 1823, people were just throwing gin back, as its bitter taste was not one to be savored. So Mr. Pimm made a heavenly concoction using gin as its base, but spiced and flavored it using a multitude of berries and other secret ingredients. Pimm’s combined with a sparkling lemonade, strawberries, mint, cucmbers and orange slices make just about the most tasty, fruity, refreshing drink imaginable.
Pitcher of Pimm’s Refreshing Drink
- 200ml Pimm’s
- 500ml Sparkling Lemonade (or Sprite)
- 1/2 English Cucumber (in cubes)
- 250 gr Strawberries (quartered)
- 3 sprigs Mint Leaves
- 1 orange (in cubes)
- Wash all fruit and vegetables and cut as directed above.
- In a large pitcher, place desired amount of ice cubes, then add fruit, cucumber, mint.
- Fill with Pimm’s and lemonade, stir. Serve immediately!