Strawberry -- the only fruit that has its seeds on the outside. It is one of the three most popular flavors eaten in America and Indiana. The other two are vanilla and chocolate.
There is an ongoing dispute in Hoosier land about what constitutes strawberry shortcake. Strawberry season arrives in early summer usually around Memorial Day plus or minus a few days. In the past nearly every farmer and many gardeners had a strawberry patch to grow the succulent red beauties. There is nothing quite as dashing as that first berry. It delivers a splash of cascading tastes that make the tongue and palate send pleasure messages to the brain that are unheralded.
Perhaps the No. 1 strawberry festival in the state is held on Monument Circle in downtown Indy. At noon time the circle is a sea of Hoosiers delicately balancing bowls of berries with perhaps a dollup of ice cream riding on a bed of cake or crust as they mill about enjoying the sunshine and the monument. It is a spectacle. Others in the state might dispute its rank as No. 1 but few will have the crowd and the view.
In season there are so many strawberry festivals that Hoosiers could go from one to the other for at least a month and eat nothing but shortcake which brings the disputation to the floor for discussion. Just what constitutes strawberry shortcake? Disputants line up on many sides. Purists maintain that the very word is clear indication of what it should be. Shortcake includes the word and clearly means cake. Case closed. Meaning clear. No disputation. Those same purists say that the cake is white cake, the kind served at wedding receptions around the world. That is the cake that God intended when He invented strawberry shortcake. Continuing to drive their point home, purists do not want their shortcake polluted with ice cream or whipped cream or any other noxious substance that detracts from the taste of lightly sweetened berries with just enough juice to flavor the cake.
Comes now the loyal opposition. Some misinformed agitators and nonconformists, mostly come lately to Indiana, advocate for other forms of this delectable delight. They perform a travesty by putting the strawberries on sponge cake or Twinkies that clearly subverts the original intent. Sadly there are some native Hoosiers who use biscuit dough for the bed of berries. Shocking. Other misguided and to be pitied souls use pieces of pie crust as a machination to deliver the treat. And then there are still others who corrupt the berries by burying them in a thick lethal gelatinous red glaze and pour them into a pie crust covering them with a white sauce or whipping cream.
Purists writhe like an octopus with stomach cramps at the very thought of such travesties. They say, "You may serve those concoctions but do not, we repeat, do not call the desecrated products strawberry shortcake. Call it strawberry surprise because we are surprised that anyone would eat it."
Larry grew up north of Calvertville on a farm and graduated from Worthington High School. He lives in Plainfield and can be reached at Goosecrick@aol.com or (317) 839-7656. Write him at Larry Vandeventer 6860 Sunrise Drive, Plainfield, Ind., 46168.