Sunday, 8 July 2012

Strawberries and Cream

The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships draw to a close today with the final of the Men's Singles. But while the likes of Federer, Murray, Nadal and Djokovic battle it out for the title of "The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World" most of the other people who turn up to the Championships will be engaged in and activity as fundamental as the tennis...but rather more appetising !

Love and marriage, horse and carriage, strawberries, cream and Wimbledon. The spectators at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club have enjoyed a long and sweet relationship with the strawberry, whose fruiting season coincides perfectly with the two week tournament period. Strawberries have been served with cream since the days of King Henry VIII when a member of Cardinal Wolsey's kitchen staff paired the two; an innovation since, at the time, dairy products were considered lower class fare. Because they ripen at the same time as Wimbledon they've been an obvious choice of snack and a staple since the beginning of the tournament in 1877.

Today (along with 200,000 glasses of Pimm’s, 190,000 sandwiches, 135,000 ice creams, 32,000 portions of fish and chips, 25,000 bottles of champagne, and 23,000 bananas) over 28,000kg of Kentish Elsanta strawberries are consumed during the two-week period and served with more than 7000 litres of fresh cream. They're picked early in the morning from growers in Kent, collected, brought to Wimbledon, hulled by and army of students and then sold in punnets of not-less-than-ten. Some of the strawberries are eaten the same day they're picked, such is the efficiency of the operation. And it would need to be efficient given the crowds looking to be fed; with roughly 1800 staff Wimbledon is the largest annual sporting catering operation in Europe.

The minimal preparation required for such a delicious desert is probably what originally appealed to the hard-press cooks at Hampton Court... Although mixing an English classic with a French one in elaborate strawberries-and-cream macaroons could be a refined alternative!!

A less refined alternative was Tesco's attempt in 2011 to create a strawberries and cream sandwich. Sold at £1 the sandwich was filled with berries sliced and placed between two pieces of white poppy seed bread spread with Cornish clotted cream and a dollop of strawberry jam to hold it all together. The idea was a bit of a flop, but fair play Tesco for trying!

Images from herehereherehere, and here