At the risk of alarming my doctor, who sent me off to Europe this spring with an admonition to lose a few pounds in places other than the London betting shops, a few more words about one of my favorite subjects: Wimbledon strawberries.
Strawberries are an inescapable part of Wimbledon, as much a part of the scene as mint juleps are at the Kentucky Derby. About 14,400 tennis balls -- white ones, which you don't see much anymore -- are used during the fortnight of the championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. About 30,000 pounds of strawberries are consumed there over the same period.
"We've reduced the price this year, from 90 pence (about $2.20) a plate to 75 pence ($1.75)," explained Richard Tear, who directs Wimbledon catering operations without mentioning that portions are also smaller. "The supply is better this year. They're better value."
The strawberries are locally grown, picked the morning they are served, according to Tear.
"They're English strawberries, from Kent. We think they're the best in the world," he said.
How would they differ from what a Washingtonian might buy at Safeway?
"English strawberries are sharper. They're not as large or as sweet as the Californian or Mexican strawberries you'd have in the States," Tear said. "We have a sharper palate over here. Americans like things sweeter. We like them with a bit of bite."
Ah, the better to smother you in cream, my dears.
"The cream is just normal English cream -- no special designation for that," Tear said. "It comes from wherever the cows are producing."
American writer John McPhee, in his splendid and otherwise accurate book entitled "Wimbledon: A Celebration," popularized the myth that Wilbledon strawberries are served in Devonshire cream.
Those who have tasted it know that Devonshire cream is an extraordinary treat -- thick and at once sweet and tart, rather like sour cream that has been blended with just the right touch of honey.
"I doubt we've ever served Devon Cream here," Tear said. "We serve more than a ton of strawberries a day. Devon couldn't supply the volume of cream we need."
That fact didn't discourage the caterer at the U.S. Open in New York from advertising "fresh strawberries in Devonshire cream" on his menu a couple of years back. The truth-in-advertising folks, noting that the "Devonshire Cream" came out of pressurized cans, insisted on deletion of the bogus come-on.
At any rate, despite the terrible weather of Wimbledon's first week, the strawberries have been scrumptious this season. As for the cream, I cannot comment. It will please my doctor to know that I have been consuming strawberries in the nude -- them, not me -- with neither sugar nor cream. Even au naturel they are delicious.
I say, I must be developing an English palate.