Memory: summer concerts in the town squre bandshell and the stroll home later in the soft evening air with everyone sitting on the front porch, drinking lemonade and eating cake until bedtime.
For most city dwellers, the memory isn't of an actual event but made up out of stories passes down from parents and grandparents, telling of a slower time in a younger America. Such evenings do still exist but you have to drive deep, deep into the country to find them. While sinking into nostalgia for an almost-vanished past, it's easy to ignore today's urban equivalents.
Every Friday evening through Sept. 11, the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and the Silent Drill Team are on parade at the Marine Barracks, 8th and Eye Sts. SE, starting at 8:20 p.m. And if sitting in the bleachers to watch is not quite the same as sitting on the soft grass of the town square, it's a good performance, touching all the right patriotic spots, setting children marching in place and toes tapping.
It also shares one good and rare thing with summer band concerts: It's free. It also can be crowded, and if you are going to invite friends to join you for an old-fashioned evening, you have to reserve seats at least three weeks in advance or take a chance on finding nowhere to sit in the limited number of unreserved seats available. (To reserve seats, call 433-4073 on Fridays only; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
If you can't stroll home in the early darkness, you can round up your guests and drive them back to your house, line them up on porch or stoop and serve platters and platters of strawberry shortcake. It will give you a chance to find out who is bringing home the girl next door and who the people across the street have invited to dinner. Snooping was one of the things front porches were about.
Perhaps you were lucky enough to have the family shortcake recipe passed down along with those stories of summer evenings. If not, do not resort to those yellowish, doughy pastry shells that supermarkets label shortcake. True shortcake is made with sweetened biscuits, split and packed thick with strawberries.
About two hours before you plan to serve the shortcakes, make a syrup of hulled, chopped strawberries sweetened to taste. Mash them with the back of a fort to bring out the juices. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the syrup thickens. Let it cool and add more hulled, sliced strawberries, which should marinate in the syrup for about an hour.
Make a sweet biscuit dough, roll out to about 1/2-inch thick, cut rounds with a biscuit cutter and bake until golden. While they're still hot, split the biscuits in half, butter with unsalted butter, stack the bottom with strawberries, and put the top back on.
Serve warm or cold with a pitcher of thick cream or a bowl of lightly whipped cream.