Today’s food holiday is berry delicious! May 21 is National Strawberries and Cream Day.
I had assume that strawberries and cream were just that: strawberries floating in a bowl of cream. Which doesn’t sound all that appealing. Turns out, most preparations involve whipped cream. Some even call for ice cream. Ahh…well now, that makes sense! Strawberries and whipped cream are a decadent delicacy. I decacacy, if you will.
Strawberries and cream were first served by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of King Henry VIII’s royal court, in the 1500s. In 1514, Wolsey built a fabulous riverside retreat called Hampton Court which he referred as the “the King’s palace” due to the frequency of Henry VIII’s visits. Opulent parties were thrown, and included lavish feasts whipped up by the chefs in Hampton Court’s oversized kitchens; they were expected to feed some 600 people twice a day. The kitchens were hot and crowded, and the chefs worked like mad, once serving a meal consisting of 44 different cooked animals and birds. One overworked chef said “this is bullshit” – or whatever profanity-laced phrase was popular at the time – and decided to put together a simple dessert that did not require plucking, skinning, butchering, or cooking. He took strawberries, combined them with thickened cream (dairy products were considered a peasant dish at the time), and served them to the royal court. Rather than declaring “off with his head!” the king enjoyed the treat, and it became popular throughout Britain. To this day, strawberries and cream are synonymous with the Wimbledon tennis tournament, where more than 6000 pounds of strawberries and 2000 pounds of cream are served.
I wish this food holiday was just a few weeks later. The best strawberries in the world are grown in the Pacific Northwest, but the season doesn’t begin until June and is much too short. We had to settle for California strawberries from the grocery store instead, which – no offense to Golden Staters – pale in comparison. But – on the plus side – I made my own whipped cream! It’s amazingly simple. Cream, sugar, and a splash of vanilla. Whip until it forms stiff peaks.
That’s what she said.