Strawberry Social

When I was a kid my parents and I lived in a small rural town where our church – one of two in the entire 3,000-person village – acted as the social hub for the upward and, in my church’s case at least, agriculturally mobile. My church engaged in its fair share of social and fundraising events, and the organizers, people like my mom, took pains to ensure that any goods or services they needed were sourced locally. So in between all the church clean-a-thons (Murphy’s Oil Soap, you are a weird animal indeed) and leaf-raking parties, there were all manner of corn suppers and apple festivals to take advantage of the fantastic local produce.

Then every summer just as the strawberries reached the height of juicy perfection, the church would put on the strawberry social, a kind of one-night-only pop-up restaurant in the elementary school gym that only served strawberry shortcake, tea and coffee. I loved the strawberry social, not only because it brought the entire town together for one berry-fuelled night of small town gossip (I keep saying “entire” like it was some bustling metropolis; going from one end of the town to the other by car took maybe 45 seconds, max) but because I got to work as a waitress for the evening. Being chosen as a waitress for the social was nothing to sniff at! If you managed to land one of the coveted positions, you had to be quick on your feet and capable of lugging brimming plates of whipped cream-topped berries to all of your neighbours, including the two old duffers who were collectively known as Delmer. You had to take drink orders and try not to scald yourself on giant carafes of coffee, all while periodically dancing into the gym’s adjoining kitchen to sneak spoonfuls of tart strawberry sauce bubbling away on the stove. One year the Delmers gave me a sweet little tip, and another year the lead organizer, a lovely local woman and family friend, stopped by days after the social to hand-deliver a note and a little trinket thanking me for all my hard work at the event. It was my first experience with such a gracious and well mannered gesture, and I’ve never forgotten how special she made little eight-year-old me feel just for doing my job. Those are actually some of my favourite childhood memories. 🙂

And so I was thinking about the strawberry social the other day when it occurred to me that while I may no longer be slinging the berries, they obviously provide a great deal of inspiration in my current incarnation as a dabbling nail artist, because I have done A LOT of strawberry-themed manis, as this little gallery in honour of the mighty berry (in some of its more popular incarnations) bears out.

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