There are tastes by which you can mark time: tastes that set you firmly in the now of the season and bring you back to the smells of your mother's kitchen. I can see the heaping refrigerator crisper drawers, like the one-note, sold-by-weight candy bins at the grocery, filled with our pick-your-own berry bounty - no room for even the boxes. I can see the worn grassy paths between the berry plants where we would kneel beside cardboard boxes and filled water bottles that we wouldn't dare waste on drinking when berries could be washed and eaten as quickly as picked. I can feel the sunburn that ensued and sometimes brought us in, if tired backs or heaping boxes didn't first. I can hear my neighbor's laugh, usually directed at the antics of my younger sister, or sometimes me when the number of berries I had eaten seemed double my weight. I can taste the strawberry shortcake.
It was not really strawberry shortcake, per se. Potato, potahto. The beginning of summers were dog-eared with yellow cake cupcakes topped with berries and whipped cream. Simple and perfect. Summer on its cusp: light and sweet, with bursts of color. The days and the oven hot: the nights just cool to the touch and speckled with lightening bugs.
Last night, I found myself in the company of a yellow cake mix, an extra cup of cream, and friends. The mixer came out and amidst talk of books (and a little one sneaking in for cupcakes), summer commenced. I can almost see the lightening bugs.
*To make your own whipped cream, mix 1 cup of heavy whipping cream with 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla on high speed until firm peaks form. (The actual recipe I used said to chill the bowl and beaters and wait to add the sugar and vanilla until soft peaks had formed. Tomato. Tomahto.)