In Nova Scotia there is a long tradition of celebrating the arrival of strawberries with festivals and suppers in church halls and at community picnics. We do love our strawberries. Even though they are now available year round from other parts, many choose to wait for the local crop the way we have always done.
If you are on Twitter you need to follow @SmallHistory. Everyday there are postings of little stories taken from Nova Scotian newspapers at the end of the 19th century. The feed is created by Sara Spike, a professional historian, who reads many newspapers for her research. With Small History Sara has found a fun way to share fascinating tidbits she finds when really looking for something else.
And speaking of sharing , she had so many strawberry festival references she sent me a batch to play with.
The festivals were often put on by groups of church woman who also sold fancy goods they had made in sewing circles.
The Yarmouth Herald on July 5, 1892 lists 6 strawberry events over 5 days! By the last ad, the copy writer gives up and the head simply reads”Smothered in Cream!”
There is also mention of a “good tuckout,” an unfamiliar word . It means a full meal, especially of dainties; a treat. Sounds particularly British.
And of course strawberry tuckouts continue today. Eleven strawberry suppers and socials in the Annapolis Valley popped up in a quick search. When we spent time in Bridgetown we tried to attend the supper at the nearby Community Hall in Tupperville (sorry it was last weekend). I took some photos there a couple of years ago.
Inside the hall, long tables are set up with mismatched china and bowls of pickles.
You serve yourself ham and salads and casseroles at the front. And folks are always interested to discover more about these strangers.
And then come pitchers of tea and strawberry shortcake.
After the meal people linger and talk, while men boil water and wash dishes.
At Tupperville there seemed to be a nice mix of folks of all ages from around the countryside, but I’m not surprised that some events tend to attract an older clientele. Noticed this tweet recently:
- At a Slow Food event a few years ago there was a tasting of about 12 varieties of strawberries that were all ripe at that moment. Members (including well-known chefs) didn’t realize there are many strawberry varieties (quite a few developed at the Kentville Research Station).
It was fun and instructive to see and taste berries that had been developed for various combinations of flavour and texture and colour and size and time of ripening etc. Next time you buy berries at a farmer’s market ask what varieties they have for sale, often there will be 2 or 3.
- Every year I worry that we will lose our traditional, wood berry basket to paper or plastic alternatives. I think the elegant design may date back to the 19th century but I really don’t know the story. I’m aware of a couple of companies in Nova Scotia that still make berry and apple baskets.
Now get over to Twitter and see what @SmallHistory has discovered!