Monday, September 29, 2008

The Story of the Long-Distance Strasberry

Oliver, as you know, is my god-son. His mother, a dear friend of mine for over thirty years, designs websites. In addition, she has her own website on which she provides ice-cream recipes. Such is the popularity of her website that she has hundreds of hits every day. Not only does she provide recipes, but each recipe comes accompanied by a story. It could be a story of how that particular ice-cream was invented . . . of the celebrities over the years who have promoted it . . . of where the ingredients come from . . .

Which is where we come to the story of 'The Long Distance Strawberry'!
To be precise, it isn't a strawberry - it's a 'strasberry'. What is a strasberry? I didn't know until yesterday, then I learned that it is a recent hybrid, a cross between a strawberry and a raspberry that has been produced in Holland. It is delicious, it is very delicate, it is hard to come by . . . and the only place, believe it or not, where it can be bought in the UK is at Waitrose in Kensington High Street! Or so, Shelagh, my friend in Cumbria was told.

Directly she'd read about this wonderful delicacy she'd straightway thought about incorporating strasberries into a new ice-cream recipe. But how to get hold of this new fruit? She phoned the producer in Holland, he told her of the run on his new product and said that her only hope of any remaining would be, as I said, down here in Kensington. She phoned Waitrose in the High Street . . . they had none in stock, but hoped to have a few punnets on Thursday!

Well, you can guess what happened next! Shelagh phones me with a most unusual request. Could I possibly go to Waitrose, take some photos of the precious fruit, package up two punnets very carefully and post them to Cumbria? I was only too happy to help. I, too, phoned Waitrose and spoke to a helpful man named Neil. Neil promised to have two punnets waiting for me this morning.

And so it was that I arrived at Waitrose at nine-fifteen. I located Neil. He took me to the fruit counter . . . shock horror, one of the precious punnets had been taken, there was only one left! Poor Neil was so mortified by the loss of the punnet, that he insisted on giving me the remaining one 'courtesy of Waitrose'.

I thanked him profusely, then asked if I could take a photo of him with the strasberries. If, I explained, they arrived in Cumbria indistinguishable from a strawberry mousse, at least we would have the photos to recall what they had looked like. Going a little pink with embarrassment, Neil agreed.

I then carried the precious punnet to the Post Office where I packaged it up in the box I'd taken for the purpose . . . plenty of bubble-wrap . . . coccoons of selotape . . . copious instructions saying THIS SIDE UP and FRAGILE and PERISHABLE . . . and it's now on its way to Cumbria.

IF it arrives intact . . . IF Shelagh can then transform the strasberries into a delicious new ice-cream . .. then the accompanying story on the web-site will be all about the strasberries' epic journey- together with the photo of Neil!
If all this takes place, you can be sure I'll send you the web-site!

4.30 on Friday

I've just had a phone call from Shelagh.
At mid-day, so she told me, the postman had come hurrying up to their door. In his hands he'd held a package which, rather disturbingly, was oozing thick globules of deep pink liquid. The accompanying correspondence, bills, junk mail and letters, was also richly stained.
"What do you want me to do with this?" he'd asked, “I don’t think it’s body parts - it smells too good!”
Shelagh had looked down at the dripping package. After offering the postman a shortened version of the story, she had carefully carried the package into the kitchen where, on the table, the ingredients for the ice-cream were sitting awaiting its arrival. Taking a sharp knife, Shelagh had delicately removed the soggy cardboard, the bubble-wrap and the plastic container. With a spoon, she had cautiously probed the contents. There weren't enough undamaged strasberries to make up the ice-cream she'd planned . . . but, if she reduced the recipe by fifty per cent . . . ?
This she did. The remaining strasberries were crushed and mixed with the other ingredients . . . the ice-cream was whipped and stirred and folded into its bowl . . . the resultant, sweet-smelling conglomeration was put into the freezer.
However, before it went in, both Shelagh and Oliver took a spoon . . . and tasted this exotic new strasberry mixture . . . which, according to Shelagh and Oliver, is very good indeed!

I'm just a little sad that Cumbria is so far away . . . I would rather have liked to have had a spoonful myself!