For a bit of a change this week, I'm not presenting my recipe with a book. I'm presenting my recipe with Beatles songs. The Beatles as kidlit. Or kid poetry. Or something.
Before school ended I asked my kids what they wanted to learn about this summer. One of the things they both mentioned was the Beatles. I looked for a picture book with awesome illustrations that introduces the Beatles in a fun, engaging manner. Something along the lines of The Day-Glo Brothers, Racing Against the Odds or The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau (three biographies my kids have recently enjoyed). Such a thing does not seem to exist. (Perhaps this is my cue to write such a thing?) So, spending a week learning about the Beatles and their songs was the best I could do. Which is not really a problem because we happen to be big Beatles fans around here.
We'll start with a recipe though. There are a number of Beatles songs that mention food. We've got the songs "Glass Onion" and "Mean Mister Mustard." "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" has "marmalade skies" and "marshmallow pies." But for me, there is only one song that worked as inspiration for this week's recipe.
"Strawberry Fields Forever" is my all time favorite song. Strawberries are my all time favorite food. Of course we had to make strawberry shortcake to kick off our Beatles week.
"Strawberry Fields Forever" is not literally about strawberry fields; rather, Strawberry Field was the name of a Salvation Army orphanage near John Lennon's childhood home. The song appears on the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (alternate versions are found on their Anthology 2 album and there's a mashup version of it on Love). It's one of those polarizing Beatles songs that people tend to love or hate. If you're only a fan of early Beatles, this isn't the song for you. If you prefer Paul McCartney's (usually) more straightforward, lighthearted lyrics, this isn't the song for you. If you like surrealism, stream of consciousness (one of my personal favorite literary devices) and psychedelia with a dose of melancholy--hurrah!--this may be the song for you.
It is extremely difficult to find samples of Beatles music that I can legally share here. That's just the way things are with the Beatles and their rights. So, if you'd like to get a taste of the song I'll direct you to some covers done by other artists (but I really recommend checking out the original):
Strawberry Fields Forever cover by Jim Sturgess, from the movie Across the Universe
Strawberry Fields Forever cover by Ben Harper
One of the things my older son enjoys doing is listening to all my versions of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and comparing them. The three variants found on Anthology 2 and the version the Beatles finally released on Magical Mystery Tour are a mini-lesson in how a song (or any creative work) can undergo multiple revisions before resulting in a final product. We've also talked about Ringo's drumming in this song. My seven year old once pointed out that he "goes absolutely crazy" at the end. I in turn pointed out that it's a controlled kind of crazy that came only after years and years of practice (it's brilliant, really). (My hope was that this would encourage him to practice the piano without complaining.)
Before we made our strawberry shortcake we had to get some berries. This is how things work in our family: I mentioned we were going to make strawberry shortcake. My husband suggested we pick our own strawberries. I pondered that for like two seconds and began Googling pick-your-own berry farms. I found one not too far away and we went out there on Saturday morning. Berry season is coming to an end but we were still able to get an abundance of fresh, ripe strawberries straight from the fields. Fun! And delicious.
My preferred way to eat strawberries is plain. But this wouldn't be much of a recipe blog if all I do is tell you to wash your berries and eat them while listening to some Beatles music. So, strawberry shortcake.
Strawberry Shortcake (adapted from the Bisquick strawberry shortcake recipe)
I've made a few different types of shortcakes in my time (including chocolate shortcake) but lately I've gone back to the Bisquick method, using Pamela's Baking Mix instead of Bisquick. They are similar products and quite honestly, it's easier for me to stick with a tried and true method rather than mess with blending flours and figuring out measurements. On my husband's suggestion, I did tweak the recipe a bit--I cut the butter in instead of using melted butter according to the Bisquick instructions.
2 1/3 cups Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix
3 T butter
1/2 cup milk
3 T sugar
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
whipped cream (optional)
1. Pour baking mix in medium mixing bowl. Cut in butter until it is incorporated into the mix.
2. Add milk and 3 T sugar, mix together. If mix is too dry, add another splash of milk and continue to mix. (I have never, ever made this--with Bisquick or Pamela's--and not had to add extra milk.)
3. Using an ice cream scoop, drop batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or nonstick foil. Bake at 425* F for 10 minutes.
4. While shortcakes are baking, clean and slice strawberries. Place in small mixing bowl. (Putting the sliced berries in the bowl as they piled up on my cutting board was my four year old's job.)
5. Add 1/4 cup sugar.
6. Stir strawberries and sugar. Add a small splash of water. Cover and refrigerate. The sugar and juices will combine with the water to make a light syrup.
7. Remove shortcakes from oven, let cool (unless you like to eat them still warm).
8. To serve, slice a shortcake in half. Top with berries and whipped cream:
My boys inhaled these shortcakes. No leftovers here!
What else do we have planned for this, our Week of Beatles? Tomorrow I will post about some of the ways we're getting creative with the music and story of the Beatles, and later in the week I'll share other ways I bring the story of the Beatles alive for my kids. And that's not all. On Saturday evening my husband, sister, brother-in-law and mom are going to see Paul McCartney in concert! What a great thing to look forward to this week as my kids learn more about my favorite band.
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