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The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
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is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 06.19.06
Montreal

GREG DUNCAN

You've got your strawberries, your rhubarb

Sweet Strawberry Folklore

    Long ago, First Man and First Woman of the Cherokees lived happily in the green forest, among colorful birds and fish-filled ponds. One spring day they disagreed about which path to take, and First Woman grew very angry. She went her own way.

    "What do I care?" First Man asked himself. Soon he saw it was a silly fight; he ran after her but could not catch up. The Great Spirit intervened and first put out grapes, then wild cherries, then and huckleberry bushes to tempt First Woman to slow down. She ignored them all.

    So he created a new berry, red, irresistibly delicious and growing close to the ground. It worked! After First Woman had stopped to eat her fill, she soon ran to seek First Man.

    "Are you still angry?" Great Spirit asked her.

    "No, the sweetness of these berries has reminded me of the sweetness of our love."

    When she found her husband, they shared the wonderful berry, anger forgotten. Since that time strawberries have always been there to remind them and their children of their mutual love.

History

The strawberries that we know and love today are the cultivated ancestors of wild varieties that once grew in abundance in colder northern climates, such as the Americas. We can thank First Nation peoples for demonstrating just what to do with them. In fact, our much beloved strawberry shortcake is an adaptation from simple strawberry bread made by Native Americans.

Strawberries captured the palates of many of history's explorers. In 1534 Jacques Cartier traveled to Quebec in Canada and wrote this description in his diary of what he had seen, "vast patches of strawberries along the great river (referring to the St. Lawrence) and in the woods."

Somewhere along the path to deliciousness a perfect balance of sweet and sour was born. Enter the arrival of rhubarb into the waiting arms of the strawberry. These two early summer treats are a match made in heaven for pies, tarts, cakes and jams.

It's time to put both of these ancestral ingredients to sugary good use and what better way to celebrate the arrival of summer?

Glazed Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

1 1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup flour
2 cups fresh strawberries
2 cup fresh rhubarb, cut in 1" pieces
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 tbsp sugar
1 pastry for 2-crust pie

Combine 1 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and flour. Arrange half the strawberries and rhubarb in a pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan. Sprinkle with half the sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining fruit and sugar mixture. Dot with butter. Install top crust and flute edges to make high standing rim. Brush top of pie with cold water and sprinkle on 1-tablespoon sugar. Cut steam vents in top crust. Bake in hot oven (425 F) 40 to 50 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and crust is browned.

Flaky Pastry for 2-Crust Pie

1 1/2 c flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
1/2 c vegetable shortening
4 tbsp water, cold, approx

Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl; cut in shortening with a fork or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle cold water over mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time; mix lightly with a fork just until pastry holds together and leaves sides of bowl clean. Make a ball; flatten it. Wrap dough in plastic and store in refrigerator until ready for use.

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