Strawberry Fields Forever

A couple years ago…  Okay, quite a few years ago, but who’s counting?  And no, those are NOT wrinkles around my eyes.  They’re laugh lines.  And if you can see them, then you might be standing too close.

So anyway.

A few years ago, I met this girl at church, and we hit it off.  Soon after we met, she got pregnant, and she was really, really sick.  She lived all the way in downtown Philadelphia.  And I’m from a small town in southwestern Virgina.  I don’t do the city.  But she was really lonely and bored, and she bribed me with fresh bagels and gourmet coffee to come see her and keep her company.

So I loaded my 18-month-old son in the car, and I navigated the big bad city.  A few anxiety attacks later, I found her apartment for the first time.  She served me fresh bagels loaded with cream cheese and topped with her very own homemade strawberry jam, and this delicious concoction instantly became the third great love of my life (the first being Husband and the second being coffee, in case anyone was wondering).  And with that, what is now a long-standing tradition of visiting my friend Lisa and enjoying conversation over breakfast and coffee, had its birth.

And now, five kids (3 of hers, 2 of mine) and three moves (2 of hers — she left the city for the ‘burbs, 1 of mine — I left the ‘burbs for greener pastures) later, we still get together a couple times a month for breakfast and coffee.  We rarely get to finish a conversation anymore (with a total of six kids between us) and the menu varies, but the ritual is still the same.

With the awareness of "bad carbs" and my ever-slowing metabolism, bagels have become a rare treat.  And since moving out to the greener pastures, (literally; we are surrounded by farms) a good bagel is a rare find. 

But last week, Husband brought home from the local farm stand a quart of homegrown strawberries.  They were a tad overripe, and I got to hankering for homemade strawberry jam.  I consulted my good friend, Google, and found a simple freezer jam recipe that I quickly put to good use.  I stored that sweet nectar of the gods in the freezer until I had time to locate a bagel joint.

Yesterday I was driving to a friend’s for lunch, and I discovered a Manhattan Bagel store on my way.  I didn’t even know they existed anymore!  It seems like most of the bagel chains are slowly becoming extinct, thanks to Dr. Atkins and that famous beach diet.  I reflexively swerved into the parking lot and wasted no time hopping out of my mom-mobile to purchase a baker’s dozen fresh New York style bagels. 

Last night I set my freezer jam in the fridge to defrost and went to bed, eagerly anticipating my breakfast this morning.  It did not disappoint.  After my walk, where I probably burned off only a fraction of the calories I was about to consume, I went straight to my toaster and popped in a bagel. 

And for the first time in well over a year, I indulged in my long-lost love, a fresh bagel topped with a hefty portion of cream cheese and dripping in homemade strawberry jam.  With a side of good coffee, of course.

Maybe I can bribe Lisa to come my way this time.