The first strawberries arrived at the Saturday Berkeley farmers market, which to me marks the official start of spring. I didn't get any, as I thought I would pick some up on the way back past the one stand that had them (Catalan Farm, I think?) and by then, of course, they were gone.
But asparagus became available a few weeks ago, and we've been feasting on it ever since — tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted simply in the oven, or incorporated into frittatas.
This year was the first time I have ever eaten just-picked asparagus: I tagged along when my husband photographed Vision Cellars winemaker "Mac" McDonald for an upcoming Edible San Francisco out at his place in Windsor, CA; Mac plucked a tender head straight off a stalk shooting out of the dirt and offered it to me. So sweet and crunchy, as tender as lettuce or a fresh pea, needing no accompaniment nor heat whatsoever.
This is one of the unexpected rewards of eating seasonally: the pure joy of eating something you love after a hiatus. It's like being reunited with a friend you haven't seen in a while and whose quick wit and infectious laugh you'd almost forgotten. I have barely eaten any asparagus since last summer, or strawberries since the fall. (Yes, yes, we're spoiled with the long growing season here, but quit yer belly-aching: we pay for living in paradise with obnoxious congestion, ridiculous prices, and earthquakes.) America's modern middle classes deny ourselves so very little that a bit of self-imposed deprivation, to me anyway, pays off in double pleasure. I love this asparagus infinitely more than what I could have bought in the grocery store all winter long — which would never had tasted good raw, all by itself.
Spring also means a surfeit of lemons amongst my friends. We have a tree I planted in the backyard, but its fruits are long on rind and short on juice. Fresh lemonade is one of my favorite things, and I have been experimenting with making a spicy version of Marc's Whole Lemon Lemonade, using less organic evaporated cane sugar than the recipe calls for, plus finely diced fresh ginger (I usually supplement with powdered too, to get the full strength I'm after), and a few dashes of cayenne.
For his birthday I bought Bart a home carbonator, so he can make the sparkling water that he likes so much and that I adamantly refuse to keep buying on a carbon-footprint basis. (He still gets it in restaurants; I have only so much influence.) Yesterday we added our concentrated spicy lemonade to some carbonated water: "We've re-invented Limonata!" said Bart.
It's the perfect drink for spring, with or without the bubbles. Make some!
Delushous variation: Turns out it also goes wonderfully with a slug of the vodka I've been infusing since December with locally foraged Buddha's hand
Note to newshounds: Sorry, but the warm weather and lengthening sunlight, combined with finally feeling almost physically well again, have meant a strange aversion to the computer, which is why there was no midweek Digest. Look for it late tonight or tomorrow.