Strawberries with sour cream require only three ingredients. You’d think there’s nothing easier to prepare. However, since I don’t make this dish for nourishing the body, but primarily for reviving childhood memories, the stakes are high.
First of all, the strawberries. They should come from my grandma’s dacha, a Russian country house with a garden. Or at least, some grandma’s dacha. The point is strawberries should come in a ten-liter bucket, not a hundred-gram plastic container. And if you don’t know the struggle of filling up a ten-liter bucket with strawberries, what are we even talking about here?
At least, strawberries are rather big. Imagine filling up the same bucket with raspberries or, God forbid, black currents! The main thing here is to not look into the bucket until you are pretty sure the bottom is covered with berries. If you do, the task will seem daunting and unbearable. On the other hand, once you filled the bottom the other nine liters are a breeze!
Another important tip is to make sure every fifth (or third — depending on how patient a picker you are) strawberry goes directly into your mouth. It seems contrary to common sense and logic, but the bucket fills up faster that way, trust me.
Then there’s the sour cream. It should be fat and thick and all-natural, of course, none of that fat-free nonsense.
I don’t have much to say about sugar. Sugar is sugar.
I do, however, think the dish you use is important. Ok, not you, me. My strawberries with sour cream must be made in an enamel bowl. An old, chipped scratched enamel bowl with a flower drawing on side. Because that’s the kind of bowl you find at dacha.
Now that we have all the ingredients sorted, here comes the recipe for the best ever strawberries with sour cream!
After a few hours spent at the garden bed with your butt facing the sun… (can a butt face something? I say it can)… the bucket will fill up.
Take it to the house, place a generous amount of strawberries into that enamel bowl (remove the stems first, washing is optional), and start mashing them with a fork or potato masher.
Just like James Bond has his drinks “shaken, not stirred”, you should have your strawberries mashed, not cut up. So no knife. The whole point is to get uneven bits and pieces of berries and a ton of juice.
Sprinkle with sugar, add a dollop of sour cream. Mix until the red streaks of strawberry juice marry the white streaks of sour cream in mesmerizing swirls.
My mouth is watering as I write this. I was so looking forward to this summer-time dessert, but with corona making corrections to all of our plans, this year eating klubnika so smetanoy at dacha seems unattainable.
My family has been in self-isolation for six weeks now. I am not sure how long more it will last. And even when it does come to an end, I am not going to hop on the first plane to Russia (if this is the first post you are reading on my blog, I am a Russian residing in Germany). Bye-bye, dacha this summer. Bye-bye, strawberries with sour cream.
I remembered this simplest dessert while contemplating on the changes I need to do around here. With no-one traveling at the moment, I thought I’d concentrate more on recipes. And what do I know better than the food of my homeland? So strawberries with sour cream popped into my mind out of nowhere. And then I realized I won’t be able to eat them in the garden this year, which made me profoundly sad.
The whole staying home situation caused a wide range of emotions. From quiet happiness when lying in bed with my husband and son in the morning and not having to rush anywhere to anxiety at being locked not only in our house, but in a foreign country with both my and my husband’s families living through these hard times so far away from us.
The time seems to have stopped and sped up simultaneously. Is there a term for it? A scientific explanation? Since the birth of my baby, every day has already been a groundhog day. But isolation brought it to a whole new level. Now, without my daily walk, it feels like I have groundhog hours within my groundhog days. Those jokes about today being eleventeenth of Mapril are getting real.
The other day I forgot about my mom’s birthday! And, boy, did she try to remind me, but I just wouldn’t take a hint. I went on and on about all my problems in a WhatsApp chat. And mom kept sending me encouraging replies mixed with emojis of cake, wine glass, and smiley face with a party hat on.
At some point there were so many emojis I asked whether our cat, Gavryusha, got hold of her phone. And then I called — still unaware it was her birthday — so she had to actually tell me. Insert facepalm emoji here.
Another struggle is the discrepancy between the world as seen through the screen of my phone and the actual offline world outside my windows. I scroll through stories on Instagram and see everyone baking, working out at home, and taking online courses, all with a mandatory hashtag #StayHome.
Then I go for a short walk around the neighborhood in order not to lose my mind and see people going about their business like we are not in the middle of an apocalypse straight out of a Will Smith movie. Why are they not home? But I am not home either. Granted, in Germany walks are allowed.
On my social media, the world is coming to an end, but in my neighborhood park the flowers are blooming, the old lady is walking her doggy, and two girlfriends are chatting over coffee.
On my instagram, Italians are singing in unison from their balconies. #WeAreInThisTogether. Behind my door is a delivery guy who takes the tip from a little cardboard box we glued outside to avoid contact. I look in the peephole to make sure he left before opening the door and taking the bag of food in. #AreWeInThisTogether?
The other day we had a power cut for a few hours — not a great sign in the middle of pandemic — so we called the landlord. And then the landlord asked an electrician to stop by our place, but forgot to mention that little detail to us. So the electricity is back on, my husband steps out of the house for a minute, and here comes a knock on the door.
I fling the front door open, sure my husband has returned just to see a strange man with a tool box who starts speaking German to me. Then I see my husband behind the man waving his hands furiously.
Allow me to describe what went on in my head at that moment. Believe it or not, my first thought was “freaking draft!” A Russian’s biggest fear, if ever there was one, is skvoznyak, that sneaky wind coming from an open door or window. That’s what gets you sick, people!
I had my son playing on the floor of the living room, and a draft is not something I take lightly. Do I go pick up my son and come back with him? Do I take him to the bedroom (my son, not the electrician)? Do I leave the door open or close it in the stranger’s face?
The other thread of thought intertwining with the first one was in German. Well, broken German. They don’t teach you the words “power cut” and “we don’t need your services anymore” at A1 German class. “Electricity ist ok… brauche nicht… danke very much”.
The final question on my mind was: why the hell is my husband waving his hands so violently? What? Go inside? Damn it, corona! He wants me to go further inside the apartment so I am not standing so close to the man.
It might have taken you three minutes to read this, but the jambalaya of thoughts and questions in my head happened in under 15 seconds.
And then the electrician did the unthinkable. I am sure he had the best intentions at heart, but he stepped inside our apartment to check if there was any problem with electricity. And I’d be ok with it at any other time.
But in today’s world his simple gesture caused both my husband and I to scream out something along the lines: “Oh! Hey! Ho! Nooooo!” The electrician was stunned at first, then turned around and left without saying a word. I shouted “Entschuldigung! Wir haben ein baby!” (“I am sorry! We have a baby”) feeling like a horrible human being as he was descending the steps. #AreWeReallyInThisTogether?
This is what I think about when I am on the sad side of the emotional swing. When I am on the happy side I think of our friends who pick up our groceries from a supermarket and drop them off by our house because we don’t have a car. In return, I bake Flour Bakery’s banana bread and my husband leaves half a loaf on their porch.
I think of that girl from Milan I follow on Instagram who did six hour-long lectures about Italian wines absolutely free, so now I know a thing or two about Franciacorta. On some days her wine talks were the highlight of my exhausting routine.
I want to do my fair share of helping the world in the times of need, but there’s not too much to boast about. I keep supporting my charity — nannies who look after orphans with disabilities during medical procedures in Russian hospitals.
I try to call the restaurants directly to order take-out instead of using the apps, even if it means an awkward back-and-forth in German. I shop at the farmers market on Fridays, get deliveries from small German businesses that have online presence, and ordered coffee from our local roaster once. It was only five euro, but you gotta start somewhere.
I also think of all the amazing things quarantine pushed me to do. Six weeks ago when we went into self-isolation I posted on Instagram that my days haven’t changed all that much. “It’s still feeding, rocking, and changing diapers over here,” I wrote.
42 days into quarantine I can confidently say: I was wrong. I am cooking and writing more than ever — thanks to my husband working from home and watching the baby. I revisited the strategy for this blog, had an inspiring session with a mentor, and after three years of excuses and delays started recording videos.
I am writing this in the notes on my phone while holding my sleeping son. And what you should pay attention to in this sentence is not my sleeping son, but my phone.
Writing has always been too sacred to be done spontaneously. Not unlike a pianist who makes himself comfortable on a stage chair, raises his fingers over the keyboard and pauses for a second, I’d always start writing only when I reached a third-wave coffee shop, had a sip of cappuccino brewed by an award-wining barista, and spent a couple of minutes staring into my Mac, deep in thought.
This post is the first one on the blog I am typing away with one thumb on the screen of my phone, sitting on a bed of my darkened bedroom. It’s pretty bad-ass.
I only wish the simple things in life were still simple. I wish going for a walk didn’t require taking toilet paper so I can avoid touching the door knobs.
I wish I didn’t have to put my clothes straight into washing machine and spray bags with disinfectant after a grocery run.
I wish right after I unpacked the groceries I didn’t realize I forgot that one ingredient I need for the recipe and now have to wait a few days. Because that’s what happened to strawberries with sour cream.
In March, I had sour cream and sugar, but strawberries were nowhere to be found. Then came April and with it the first strawberries.
A ten-liter bucket, of course, was out of the question, but my husband scored the much hated plastic box of delicious local strawberries. Which is when I realized I need that enamel bowl. Amazon to the rescue! My bowl is neither old, nor scratched, but giving the circumstances I had to compromise.
When the bowl arrived, I opened my sour cream only to find that it got frozen, defrosted, and lost its silky structure.
By the time I got fresh sour cream, strawberries started wilting. How can a three-ingredient dish be so hard to make?
I woke up one morning and thought: it’ll do. It just has to. I may not be able to fly home to Russia and see my parents and grandma. I may not be able to pick berries at dacha this summer. But I am gonna make the damn strawberries with sour cream.
So here is the recipe for strawberries with sour cream updated for current situation.
Take as much or as little strawberries you can find these days. Better wash them because it’s not your grandma’s garden goodies.
Use your fingers to pull out the green stems and white butts off the berries. Sinking your fingers into strawberry flesh is as satisfying as it sounds.
Place the disfigured berries into whatever bowl you have and crush them with passion worthy of Brazilian telenovelas. Add sour cream. More than you think you need. Sprinkle with sugar. Lots of it, no-one will judge. Now, slurp away, my friend. Slurp away!
P.S. the pictures in this post are brought to you by my creative sparkle on the morning when I crushed the hell out of my strawberries. I just put my phone on a tripod, set the timer and kept eating.