This past weekend Mother Nature attempted to set me on fire, scorching the entire country in a desperate attempt to stop me from turning my critical snackologist eye on what many consider one of her greatest creations. What's the matter, Mother Nature? You nervous girl?
Well you should be.
Mother Nature and I have never quite seen eye-to-eye on the subject of things outside the confines of whatever man-made shelter I've managed to weasel my way into over the years. You see, she likes to populate that expansive space with things that crawl, things that make me itch and things that don't smell or taste what they look like they'd smell and taste, such as horses and shiny rocks. She also lets the sun shine right down on me at least 60 percent of the time. Her inherent functions have spawned a bitter rivalry between us.
Also we dated in high school and I caught her making out with Jeremy Rains under the bleachers during the homecoming game, that harlot.
And thus whenever I evaluate the products of Mother Nature (or Jeremy Rains, for that matter) I start in the negative. I put my journalist integrity in the little box on my dresser where my childhood innocence and trust have been attempting to recuperate for more than three decades now. I'd like to think they cuddle.
So, without further ado, it's time for me to relentlessly savage Mother Nature's crimson heart: The Strawberry.
The strawberries you cut up in your Cheerios every morning aren't technically the product of Mother Nature.
That's right, the garden strawberry plant that produces upwards of four million tons of fruit a year is actually a hybrid of two different species of wild strawberry. The Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America and Fragaria chiloensis from Chile just weren't good enough, Mother Nature, so agriculturalists in 1750s France combined the two, creating the pretty heart-shaped ovary transport device you unknowingly dip in chocolate.
You see, those seeds on the outside of the fruit? They aren't technically seeds. They're the plant's ovaries, which contain the seeds. Let that sink in.
I've got to give Mother Nature her due when it comes to strawberry aesthetics. Ovaries aside, these are some of the most attractive things you'll find sprouting up out of the dirt. That gorgeous ruby color, the heart-like shape, the briiliant green leaves; the strawberry is the pinnacle of floral fashion.
Wrestle a strawberry onto a plate and slice open its still-screaming corpse and it only gets better. White phillopian tubes (what, it fits) pierce the red meat, feeding into the pleasantly pink heart. It's the color of love, of passion, of hunger; I dare you to slice open another living thing (like Jeremy Rains) and find as much beauty.
This is a fruit so striking that it's as much a cultural icon on the island nation of Japan as Hello Kitty, Naruto or Brian Ashcraft. That's a powerful profile.
When I mentioned I was reviewing strawberries to my friends and colleagues, I was flooded with suggestions on what to add to the strawberries or, conversely, what to add them to. Cut them up in cereal, my stepfather told me. Roll them in sugar, said my mother. Both Kotaku's Tina Amini and Kotaku's Kate Cox suggested I dip them in Nutella, but to be fair, they'd be happier if the entire world were covered in Nutella.
This outpouring of suggestions brought to light an important fact about the strawberry: it's better as component.
During the course of this review I consumed an entire pound of naked strawberries. I sliced them in half. I bit into them ruthlessly. I scalped them and popped them into my mouth whole.
I did not wrap them in bacon. I didn't make a puree and mix them into melted white chocolate. I did not slather them with peanut butter, or blend them into a shake. I did not strap them to my cat and attempt to bite them while he ran howling about the living room.
But they would have been better if I had done any of those things.
A perfect strawberry, eaten at the very peak of ripeness, is mildly strawberry-flavored at best; slightly sweet with just a tinge of floral flavor. Remember earlier, when I cursed Mother Nature for creating things that don't taste how they look? I give you exhibit S.
The strawberry is a fine fruit. It's gorgeous, full of vitamins, and its calories-to-size ratio makes them perfect for someone that consumes an entire pound in one sitting (136 calories). I might even go as far as naming it one of the finest fruits, surpassed only by oranges and certain apples.
But this isn't Fruitaku. It's Snacktaku, and strawberries aren't a satisfying snack.
Mother Nature just didn't follow through with this potent bundle of plant cells and ovaries. Like a sneeze that never comes, the strawberry brings you to the very edge of the perfect experience, but requires man's gentle hand to finish the job. Dip them in chocolate and the dark sweetness brings out the best in the berry. Sprinkle them with sugar and they sing a song as pure and pleasing as first love. Extract their essence into a small, flat rectangle of chewy wax and you've got the second-best flavor of Starburst.
But alone? Alone you've got an idea that needs humankind to be fully realized.
How you like me now, Mother Nature?