May is strawberry season. Below is my mother’s simple but delicious recipe for wild strawberries and shortcrust. It is only strawberries and crust, but oh so good.
Most people have never tasted the intense, sweet flavor of wild strawberries, called a-ni (ᎠᏂ), in Cherokee. The common hybridized ping-pong ball sized berries available in your local big chain store, pale in flavor compared to its native ancestor. Wild strawberries are dime-sized bright red berries that grow where there’s lots of sun: in meadows, fields, on moist ground, along the edge of woods, and on hillsides. You can find them across the U.S. If you can’t get wild strawberries, Ozark strawberries (a close relative of wild strawberries that are commercially grown) are a close second. Strawberries are highly prized and sought after by Cherokees. It’s such an important fruit, there is a legend about its origins and love.
Selu and Ganati’s First Argument
In the beginning of the world there was the first man, Ga-na-ti and first woman, Selu. Together they built a home at the edge of the words. They were very happy together; but like all couples do at times, one day they began to argue. Selu became so angry she said she was leaving and was never coming back. She started walking down a path through the woods. She didn’t look back.
At first, Ga-na-ti didn’t care that she was gone. But, as the day grew longer, he began to worry. Finally he started down the path to look for her. The Sun looked down on all the happenings and began to sympathize with the young couple. The Sun asked Ga-na-ti if he was still angry with Selu. He said he wasn’t angry anymore and was sorry for the words he’d said. The Sun asked if he would like to have her back. Ga-na-ti, with a smile on his face, looked to the sky and shook his head yes. The Sun said, “Then you must go after her.”
Although Ga-na-ti had a change of heart, Selu was still angrily walking down the path. By this time she had quite a head start on Ga-na-ti. The Sun realized he must find a way to make her stop so Ga-na-ti could catch up. The Sun caused blueberries to grow beneath her feet and along the path. Selu was so angry she paid no attention and kept walking, stomping on the blueberries until her shoes were purple.
A little further down the path The Sun caused juicy blackberries to grow. The blackberries were dark and plump. Selu didn’t look left or right. Even when the briars scraped her legs, she kept walking.
Finally, The Sun decided to attract Selu’s attention, a new plant would grow, one that had never grown on the earth before. The tiny plant covered the ground in front of her. At first she kept walking. Suddenly she smelled a sweet fragrance she had never known. Stopping she looked down at her feet. Growing in the path was a plant with shiny green leaves, delicate white flowers and the reddest berries she had ever seen. She stopped to pick one. Mmmm…it was so sweet! As soon as she ate the strawberry, the anger she felt began to fade away. She thought again of her husband and how silly their fight and her behavior had been. She missed him and wanted to return home.
She gathered some berries to take home to Ga-na-ti. When she had all she could carry, she turned back down the path towards home. Soon she saw Ga-na-ti down the path. When she got to him she apologized for her behavior. He apologized for this words. Hand in hand, they walked back to their home, eating berries all along the way.