11 August 2011


By Andy Weddington
Friday, 12 August 2011

"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet."  Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Until a couple of weeks I'd not given thought to the possibility of there being all that much of a difference in strawberries--one strawberry pretty much like another, or so I thought.

But a bowl of vanilla ice cream in a foreign land, topped with a few spoonfuls of sliced fresh berries, turned an assumption about strawberries upside down and, literally, inside out.

And then an analogy to politicians struck.

The strawberries, like no others, are called "jordgubbar" ("jordgubba" is singular) in their homeland--Sverige. Or as we English speakers call it, "Sweden."

By all appearances, jordgubbar look like the strawberries from coast to coast in the United States. That is, the bright red berries, with leafy green pointed cap and stem, enjoyed in the Carolinas, heartland, west coast and points in between--east and west and north and south.

Once inside jordgubbar the comparisons end.

Inside the berry in the states, and most everywhere else, there is typically a small void in the center. The 'meat' is not so dense nor juicy, has some pale color (near white) not so much red and is sweet but not to excess. Sometimes the taste is bland.

On the other hand there's jordgubbar. The berry's meat dense and juicy and not the slightest void. It's color rich--a vibrant blood raspberry hue. And tasty sweet but not sugary. The meat was cleverly hidden but barely contained in its sister fruit's costume.

From the outside, the strawberry and jordgubba look identical. Not on the inside. Oh no.

A couple of days later I purchased a liter of berries at a small grocery--the lighting on the produce  made for beautiful, irresistable color. The sign said "jordgubbar--30 Kroner"--that's about $4.50. But after returning to the flat and rinsing and cutting open the berries they were not of the jordgubba standard enjoyed with ice cream. Confusing.

Later in the day, while walking the town, I traded another 30 Kroner for a liter of jordgubbar from a street-vending farmer. The berries looked identical to the berries bought in the grocery hours earlier. But this time, after returning to the flat and rinsing and cutting them open, there was delight in seeing the beautiful dense rich red juicy meat and tasting the natural sweetness.

Placing a whole berry from each purchase on the cutting board and looking at them there was no appreciable difference in size, color, texture, and leaf and stem. In hand, they felt the same.

Cutting them in half the differences remarkable. A void in one with less colorful meat and the taste only so-so. The other--dense, rich color, juicy, and tasty.

No one has yet been able to explain the difference. One suggested the strawberries were imported. Someone suggested slower growing season for jordgubba. Maybe. But in Sweden?

Politicians--like strawberries and jordgubbar--they look the same. And politicians and strawberries over-promise and under-deliver. How is anyone to tell the difference without cutting them open--that is, putting them in office to see what they are made of--what's inside?

Politicians fool some pickers.

Nothing is fair in politics. And it is with our top politician where the buck stops. Period. As such, it is the president's fault for the country's wayward mess. The president shoulders responsibility and blame.

The president is a politician. With exterior polish and slick words, the one currently in office fooled more than some pickers. He looked the same as all the other "berries" but he said he was not--he said he was not with void and not of a pale, tasteless meat. That is, he claimed to be jordgubba.

But unlike with jordgubbar, the pickers had a peek inside. They ignored it. And once cut open, "Aha, 'strawbarry' is nothing more than an ordinary berry." Disappointing many. Surprising none.

For some time now, he is talking. And talking. And talking. And telling all he's an extraordinary Barry and maybe berry. Not so.

So, soon America will again go berry picking--desiring jordgubba(r).

But how to pick--when all berries look the same, are so advertised, and claim to be jordgubba?

Avoid the grocery? Find the street-vending farmer?

No answers. Just as no one has been able to explain the reason for the difference between strawberry and jordgubba and how to pick the jordgubbar when they look exactly like strawberries.

Though if there is any validity to the explanation of a slower growing season then that the sitting president is strawberry vice jordgubba makes perfect sense. He did not have a long growing season. Imported? Some think so.

America picked and tried the president--strawbarry--and soon learned he is plain old strawberry. He's not jordgubba. He'll not be picked again, or so suggests polled pickers.

Fortunately, unlike picking strawberries and jordgubbar, with picking politicians there's an advantage. That is, if pickers opt solely based on what's on the inside--what can be seen from record of public service (long growing season), and ignore the outside--looks and words (making for short growing season)--odds for finding jordgubbar improve significantly.

Stawbarry forever? No. Strawberry fields forever? Probably.

But there is jordgubbar, though finding same takes a bit more effort; careful selection. Yet as with everything in life, with effort comes reward--sweet fruit from bitter patience--as opined Rousseau.

Might we find jordgubbar amongst our strawberry fields?

Maybe. But we'll not know for sure until we cut them open.

Of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, lingonberries, and cloudberries, I do not know; yet.

Post Script

Jordgubbar aside, there are huge, rolling fields in Sverige that sprout ginormous 'marshmallows.' The chewy treat is not farmed but harvested. And it's not for toasting. They're later eaten--but only the inside--by beasts. Perhaps some day I will write about them.

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