By Sharon Kebschull Barrett

My mother, sweet, dignified, full of both Southern warmth and Northern reserve, would never strike you as a woman of wild abandon. As a mother myself, I hear a voice in my head in many situations saying, “be like Mom” — as in, be gracious, firm, loving and kind.

In my kids’ eyes, though, the best way to be like Mom is through her cooking. Specifically, it’s through those suppers that weren’t just dessert first: They were dessert, period.

In fall and winter, when she wanted an easy, comfort-filled supper, we got eierkuchen, the German cousin to crepes, made as her mother did. Thin, eggy pancakes, crisp around the edges from the shortening in the pan, topped with cinnamon-sugar and blackberries and served with applesauce and sour cream, and maybe a few slices of bacon alongside: This is true comfort food, now passed to a fourth generation.

And then spring. Every year, Valentine’s Day supermarket specials tempt us with cheap strawberries — and well they ought to be cheap, seeing as you’re sure not paying for flavor. This year, I managed to resist, waiting until the true sign of spring: a roadside stand, last week, proclaiming boxes of berries for sale.

“Should I buy a box?” I asked my son as we neared the turnoff in a rushed trip home. “Only if you’re making strawberry shortcake for supper!” he said. Sold … just like mom.

This was my mother’s ultimate supper-without-a-care: shortcakes made from a biscuit dough, halved and topped with mounds of sliced, barely sweetened strawberries and pillows of whipped cream. And maybe a few slices of bacon on the side.

When it comes to this supper, I never need persuading. If anything, I have to cajole my husband into yet another such meal…how many times this week?

With a sweetened version of a cream biscuit forming the base (biscuits don’t get any easier than these, and though they lack the flakiness of great buttermilk biscuits made with butter or lard, they hold their own just fine), my shortcakes come quickly from the oven in just the time it takes me to top, slice and gently sugar the berries. (And without buttery flakiness to worry about, this dough tolerates a bit of manhandling — perfect for kids in the kitchen. I remember many deep conversations with my mother while I handed her washed strawberries to slice and helped cut the shortcakes.) For whipped cream, I can use the mixer to make a simple, sweetened whipped cream with rich heavy cream from the local dairy. This works fine and fast, but it isn’t nearly as much fun as our cream whipper, still a great party trick after all these years.

In about 25 minutes, we sit down to a supper filled with sweet memories, guaranteed to fill us with the true taste of spring. I might use other things I learned from my mother at that supper table (I definitely inherited her evil eye for misbehaving children), but none as joyous in all their gracious, taste-full, Southern warmth as her strawberry shortcakes.

Recipes: Cream Shortcakes, Softly Whipped Cream

One Response to “Spring+Strawberries=Supper”

  1. Belinda says:

    Sharon, I must tell you that you have a customer for life after this morning. My co-worker ordered some of your baked goods for our Marketing Team breakfast and I absolutely loved everything she selected. But I must say that the Praline Scones were my all-time favorite!

    Thanks and look forward to trying out some of your other tasty treats!! 🙂