I was cruising the grocery store a couple of days ago and I spotted strawberries; still a little white and green on the tips and slammed into a clamshell. There was no way that if you opened that clamshell that you'd get any type of aroma and they were most certainly tasteless. It made me sad. I was instantly brought back to a couple of months ago when flats of fragrant, juicy strawberries were stacked on the pass at Josephine during the day waiting to be made into jam or a dessert or maybe a spot on the X|X menu. I paused, looked at the inferior clamshell strawberries and thought to myself 'I wonder if I did a good enough job celebrating strawberries this year.' This isn't a new thought process for me. It happens with asparagus season and in a few short weeks the same will happen with heirloom tomatoes.
Today, I got an e-mail from a purveyor who said the following: 'small farm sweet corn is a thing of the past down this way. Everything left is going towards ethanol, feed, and corn syrup.' That hit me like a punch to the gut. I'm not ready for corn to be finished. I haven't given corn my best shot of the season yet. That stings. Couple that e-mail with my incident at the grocery store and I was experiencing one of the worst feelings; seasonal regret.
Chefs are notorious for wanting to rush things. I'll guarantee you there are chefs already working on Fall menu items; right now...in July. There is a pressure to have the 'first of the season' whatever vegetable....There is also a pressure to prepare menus and systems so that when the seasons do change it isn't a huge shock to the restaurant infrastructure. In the rush to constantly be looking one or two steps forward, sometimes we as chefs and cooks don't take a minute, stop and look around. We need to focus on now; how can you best respect what you've got now.?
There is also a somewhat unwritten rule I've heard about not duplicating ingredients on menus(primarily tasting menus). I don't agree with this rule. I think when ingredients are at their peak we should celebrate them in all of their glory. Does that mean a tasting menu littered with tomatoes, corn and peaches in July and August? Yeah, I guess it does.
I'm sad that strawberry season is over. I look back and wonder if I gave everything I had to the strawberry while we were able to get such amazing product. I have seasonal regret. I also know that I'll look back on tomato and corn season and think the very same thing. That's just the way I'm built. However, I am going to ground myself in the reality of now and work very hard to do my best by the tomatoes and corn we get in. I think Ferris Bueller said it best....