Nursery songs & rhymes of England illustrated by Winifred Smith
1895, D. Nutt
Glad Midsommar! Last week was Midsummer, and it might have been a very festive one for you if you live in certain countries, particularly Scandinavian ones. It is not so much a thing in my neck of the woods, and I have had a busy couple of weeks with lots of work, but I wanted to do something to honor the festival. Last weekend we went to our local Pick Your Own farm, and brought home a punnet of gooseberries, a punnet of raspberries, and a punnet of strawberries.
A common food at Midsummer parties is strawberries, and I thought I would make something that would be satisfying without being too much work (or involve turning on the oven — we are having a heatwave here!).
I was inspired by this nursery rhyme:
contains most of the classic nursery rhymes, in all of their strangeness, alongside beautifully pristine black and white illustrations. “Curly Locks” itself is fairly straightforward, although it’s not clear whether it is aspirational on the part of Curly Locks herself, or whether she is not buying her suitor’s line. It might be a fun assignment to write her response to the proposal. As it is, it is pretty convincing. Of course, I can get curly locks with the help of rag curls, I already sit on cushions a lot and I definitely can’t sew a fine seam. But strawberries, sugar and cream? I’d sure like to try that.
Clearly, strawberries, sugar and cream are the ultimate in luxury. Now, there are two ways to have strawberries and cream. The best way is to come home with some strawberries freshly picked by yourself, immediately douse them in cream, and tuck in. But you might want to be a little fancier, maybe for an occasion such as the 4th of July this weekend.
Strawberries, Sugar & Cream
1 cup of the nicest-looking strawberries, topped and halved
Sugar to taste (I used 1 tsp)
1 cup extra-thick (or whipped or clotted) cream
Fresh mint to garnish
Place the strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle sugar to taste on the cut halves. While I like the strawberries tart, the sugar helps draw out the juice. Leave for 5 minutes to let the sugar work and then cover the lot with cream. This dish is best left to marinate, so put it in the fridge for 2 – 6 hours, stirring a couple of times to incorporate the juice. Serve in a glass with mint leaves.
Eat in the garden and feel very luxurious since you are not currently washing dishes or feeding swine!
To make further use of the strawberries, I also made some Pimm’s. This is for grownups only! Pimm’s is very popular in this part of England, and people do end up drinking a fair bit of it in the Summer, both the real stuff and knockoff versions. There’s lots you can do with Pimm’s, but the usual is (fizzy English) lemonade with additions as various as strawberries, mint & cucumber, sometimes with apples, lemons and/or oranges as well.
Pimm’s (no substitute for non-UK people, I’m afraid. Apparently it is gin-based but it does not taste like gin to me. You could try a dash of rum or brandy)
Fizzy lemonade or other lemony soda
Fresh mint leaves, torn
Other garnishes as desired
Pour the Pimm’s and add the lemonade, in a ratio of one part Pimm’s to 3 parts lemonade. Add garnishes to taste. Pimm’s is best made in a big pitcher and put in the fridge for half an hour or so, because it improves with time, the drink absorbing the flavours of the fruit and mint, and vice versa.
It’s almost too hot to sit outside…so I might need to jump in the sprinkler setting on the garden hose before I enjoy my strawberries two ways!