Costco had fresh strawberries this week and, as with all things, they came in a box that required a forklift to get into the back seat of the car. Assuming that 1) they’d already done a fair bit of travelling and 2) once one berry goes bad all the rest follow like lemmings over a cliff or ants to a picnic, I needed a strategy for putting a bunch of them to work right away. I poked around the magic interweb (everything on there is true…did you know that?) and found a pie of epic potential. The yummy list of goodness:

1 sheet refrigerated pie pastry
3 ounces German sweet chocolate, melted
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2-1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/4 cup red currant jelly
Approximate prep and cooking time: 3 hours

Now the Blogmeister loves the kitchen (Blogmeister in an apron = happy Mrs. Blogmeister) but that looked like quite an adventure (and where in the name of Alton Brown am I going to find red currant jelly on an island?). I was leaning on the counter pondering these things and idly popped one of the strawberries in my mouth.

Mmmmmm…strawberry. Yum. Best have another just to be sure. Yum again.

Screw the 3 hour recipe, these little red beasties are a small snow flurry of powdered sugar away from being not only immediately gratifying but also spectacularly delicious. Instead of having to wade through the essence of chocolate and vanilla and currant (whatever that tastes like), you get the crisp, clean, simple flavor of a ripe piece of fresh fruit. A third time I say…Yum.

Rewind back to the afternoon of February 28th, the Windward Choral Society’s celebration of African-American History Month. Blew the doors off the place. One audience member (who has heard every note of every concert since day one) said it was the best he’d ever heard. The pastor of the church wept, the choral director said every song hit every emotion, the recording (thanks Uncle Ben) brings chicken skin at the first notes.

How is it that the same talented, hard-working group that presented epic versions of “Hodie” and “Misa Criolla” gave what many people consider their best performance to date with spirituals and gospel? The pieces were not that hard, there was no orchestra, what gives?

I’ll tell you what: the clean, crisp flavor of a ripe piece of fresh fruit. Simple, filled with joy, one clear message of flavor that takes a straight line to what a strawberry is supposed to taste like. The gift of the African-American music of the Deep South isn’t meant to be complicated. Its purpose is to tell a story, most often a short and simple one that comes from deep within. Consider the complete set of lyrics of the first piece of the afternoon (presented in two languages but the same lyrics):

“Come all you people
Come and Praise the Most High
Come now and worship the Lord”

No dancing around it, no innuendo, no need to add any interpretation, pure and simple and straight to the point. Add to that the likelihood that the roots of this composition go back to the days before the Emancipation Proclamation and there’s a depth to it that can only come from that single, overpowering flavor. You all found the simple message in each piece and let it flow out of you to your audience. They got to experience the power of many voices with a singular focus and their energy found its way back to you and the whole thing kept building.

The magic of the multicultural music and the major works of the Windward Choral Society are part of what makes it all so special but every now and then you have to get down to the basics of it all. When many voices become one voice and that voice has one message you can’t help but be moved.