Summer is driving down red dirt roads and not caring if the branches scratch my car. It’s the feeling of sand slipping through my toes, the individual sun-soaked grains burning the pads of my feet. It’s the salty smell of the ocean.
Summer is Prince Edward Island.
I was born in Newfoundland and grew up in New Brunswick, but PEI has always been my home. My dad’s from the Island, and my grandparents lived there all their lives, so every summer my family would pack up our little station wagon and head over on the ferry to our 70’s-esque cottage in the middle of absolute nowhere.
It had orange shag carpet and these awful carpeted bunk beds, but it was my favourite place in the world. We would spend weeks there, my parents taking me and my sister on long drives through the countryside until we fussed enough for them to take us to the beach.
I spent every Christmas on the Island, my whole family crammed into my grandparent’s house in Charlottetown. My grandmother hadn’t bought new holiday decorations since my dad was a kid, so the place was like walking into the set of It’s a Wonderful Life: flowing tinsel, energy-sucking globe-like bulbs and brilliantly coloured baubles.
My grandparents are both gone now, so my family doesn’t go over to the Island at Christmas, or in the summer either. Since they died, we’ve spent our vacations apart. That was one of the hardest parts about losing them; I was losing the Island too.
I still go back every summer, and it’s amazing how little things have changed. I still get giddy when I see the Sandspit Amusement Park, and the sight of Charlottetown’s narrow streets always make me feel like I’m five years old all over again.
Whenever we visited my grandparents in the summer, my grandmother would almost always have this amazing strawberry shortcake. I wasn’t like the kind my mom brought home from the grocery store, and it always looked weird at first. But once my fork scooped into the buttery biscuit, soaking up all the strawberry juices, there was nothing better in the world.
three mixing bowls
1 quart fresh strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup half-and-half (equal parts cream and milk)
Wash, hull and quarter berries. Toss them in a bowl with 1/4 cup sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
In a medium bowl, combine whipping cream, vanilla and 2 teaspoons sugar. Whip until thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
To make biscuits, preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut butter into small chunks and combine into dry ingredients with a pastry blender, then with your fingers by rubbing the mixture until it resembles crumbs.
Add the half-and-half and stir until it forms a mass. Gather into a ball. Lightly flour cutting board, then transfer the dough onto it and knead lightly. Roll out dough until it’s 3/4 inch thick. Using a floured round cookie cutter or small mug, cut out circles.
Place biscuits on a baking sheet about one inch apart and bake for about 12 minutes, or until fluffy and golden. Let cool for 15 minutes.
When ready to serve, cut biscuits in half, cover in strawberries and whipped cream, and replace top half. Add more berries to top.