An ode to strawberries and to Summer days where the pull of imagination clashes with childhood memories
Honest to god, I dunno what it is about strawberries that the moment I lay eyes on them, I want to photograph them. I think they might be like the sexiest fruit around, in my eyes. The most photogenic of the lot, I guess. I can't say as if they're my favourite fruit - not even when it comes to Summer fruits, because nectarines and cherries, you know! - but whenever I have them in the house, I know I will end up snapping picture after picture of them. It's not the first time, nor will it be the last.
They're one of my favourite ingredients, actually. So versatile, they lend themselves to ever so much! You can drizzle them with balsamic and they're suppose to be great that way - never tried it but am about to! - you can slow roast them, you can use them in salads, both sweet and savoury, in yogurts, cakes, pies, mousses, drinks, milkshakes, juices, you can make jams and compotes, coulis, eat them raw, with honey, with sugar, with cream, with milk - I mean! Have you ever tried milk and strawberries? To die for. - with yogurts, with nothing at all and everything you dare dream of. Strawberries are the godfathers of good food, I think. And they're the top models of fruit.
There's always a sense of freshness, and sweetness about them. They grant themselves to the stirrings of imagination. They make one dream. They make one forge in the mind a sunny, hot afternoon in the country, lying on a hammock beneath the cool shade of large trees, bees buzzing around, droning softly, sending us off to sleep, while we nibble on a strawberry or two, a good book at hand, a straw hat over our eyes, not a care in the world, while further afield, a prarie of wild flowers and grass undulates under the hot wind coming in from the sea, close by, but yet at a distance. There's peace in this image, and such a sense of extasy, happiness, simplicity even. There's a window for a simple life, a moment's rest, the whole world outside turned off for the day, the mind at ease and no cares in the world, no further responsibilities but those of enjoying that moment, living that moment, and eating those strawberries.
It's an evocative fruit, because it can make you dream and create scenarios and worlds in your mind. It was one such scenario I had in my head as I styled this shoot, choosing the bowl carefully, and the background, trying to recreat some sort of french farm out in Provence, perhaps, one that has a stream running through it, and chicken going free on the backyard, pecking at the soil and cackling away. A french farm where a bunch of women are taking over the kitchen, while the men and the kids go fishing for shrimps in the stream, leaving the ladies to chat idly away with the windows open and the back door ajar, the breeze floating through white cotton curtains, a coffee or two on the table, maybe a glass of chilled white wine, a jam or other bubbling away on the stove and one pie in the oven, feet bare and dirty aprons, hands at the ready, minds at rest, the laughter echoing between the walls and the chucks trying to walk in and see what's up.
But it could also be a memory from my childhood, my grandparents' townhouse in the middle of Lisbon, a Summer day when all my Summer days were spent there, the dinning room with the windows open looking out onto my grandmother's backyard and the fragrant scent of her flowers entering the house, getting mixed with the smell of fresh, ripe strawberries, ready to be eaten, a child sitting down on the big dinning table, a deck of pretty cards in her hands, playing with those, but carefully, those are your grandmothers cards, do not soil them - I happen to have those cards here, right in front of me, on my desk! - grandma in the kitchen getting lunch ready, my sister nagging me to go to the patio and play with her, grandad teaching me how to play solitary, the low hum of the 1960's cream and green fridge reaching my ears, the voice of my grandmother calling one of us, the phone that would ring, the door bell, the cookie tin that my sister always tried to pry open so she could eat a cookie unseen, the smell of the fresh fruit and whatever my grandmother would be cooking, the maid baking a cake, the Summer hols that were always the same, and seemed boring to most, but that I miss, how I miss that house.
It's not a secret I don't like Lisbon at all, and would never want to live in that city proper, but if I did, it would be in that house, my grandparents', a victorian building with beautiful windows and interior rooms with no windows at all, a long dark hallway that led to a big bathroom, that kitchen with three pantries, the dinning room, the television room, the big bedrooms full of light, the backyard with the flowers and the pots and the sunshine and the fresh laundry. I was happy in a way I didn't even know, or care, on those Summer days, in that house, where I came across the joys of reading the whole day long, the hours stretching by ahead of me, knowing I would still have so much time before me, so that grandma could teach me how to sew or knit or crochet, how to do embroidery and the perfect eggnog, and grandad would teach me how to play numerous solitary games, or would play cards with me, board games that he made himself to entertain me, or even help me out with my maths. Those Summers were part of what has made me who I am, and the bowls of fragrant strawberries that I would go out with my grandfather in the morning to buy from the local market, those made an imprint in my mind, and maybe that is why I keep photographing them, maybe I am trying to capture a sense of those long sunny, warm days where life was no more than a load of great books to read, games to play, toys to investigate and strawberries to eat.