You get a lesson in life and love when Sharon Kay Alexander discusses strawberries, her favorite subject.
"My goal is to first whet the appetites of people by telling them that strawberries have to be nurtured with care and love to get their sweetness," said the Santa Ana resident who is also known as the Strawberry Lady. "And so do their lives."
Author of a recipe book called "The Strawberry Patch," she talks to community organizations about patience, kindness and love in growing strawberries. "Good fruit doesn't just happen," she says.
"And the same is true with life," she tells them. "You have to cultivate and nurture those qualities."
Alexander likes to compare people to strawberries.
"Strawberry historians say that the original strawberry had a petal dislodged, which caused it to draw itself in and become less attractive on the bottom, but it still remained flavorful," she said.
"That's like a lot of people who have had a petal knocked off. They have to make a choice. Do they go ahead or pull in? Are they positive or bitter? I've learned a lot about people because of strawberries."
Alexander, born in South Dakota and raised by her grandparents after her mother died, said she always seemed be around strawberries.
"My grandparents had a strawberry patch right at the back door, and it was our favorite fruit," she said. "We also did a lot of farming and had pigs and chickens. I'm a country girl."
After leaving home, Alexander started collecting recipes for strawberries and putting them in the book published eight years ago. She said 60,000 copies have been sold.
Some of the more flamboyant strawberry recipes include Strawberry Flambe and Strawberry Romanoff. The book contains strawberry soda and soup recipes, information on how to preserve and freeze strawberries and how to start a strawberry patch.
One recipe tells how to make berry butter.
Her particular favorite is one called "Want a Little Strawberry Cheesecake, Honey?"
Another favorite is her edible table centerpiece with kale and chocolate-dipped strawberries attached with toothpicks. Flowers are placed at the bottom.
"My (four) kids said I brainwashed them into thinking that strawberries are God's favorite fruit," said Alexander, 48, vice president of Priority Living, a Tustin-based nonprofit educational and consulting firm.
Alexander also makes other culinary delights. And while she prefers strawberries, she wrote another recipe book called All American Apple Cookbook, which also has sold 60,000 copies.
"When people ask me to bring a dish to an event and I don't take something with strawberries in it, they're disappointed," she said.
Visitors to the Orange County Fair on July 14 at 3 p.m. will hear and see her educational strawberry cooking demonstration in the Crafts and Cooks Gallery.
The fair is aptly themed "Very Berry Extraordinary."
Besides concocting various colorful strawberry delights, she will discuss the history of the seasonal berry and emphasize its benefits.
"People who are weight-conscious will be especially interested to know that strawberries have the highest Vitamin C content of any fruit and only have 50 calories in a cup," she said.
Don Madding has an insatiable desire to see the world--all of it.
So far, he's traveled to 95 countries and in August will visit Madagascar to make it 96. In February, he was in New Zealand.
The Buena Park resident, property tax manager for Beatrice-Hunt-Wesson in Fullerton, said his goal is to visit 100 countries to join the Traveler's Century Club, a group of people who have documented travel to 100 countries.
He doesn't have a favorite country, but he leans toward Papua New Guinea. "It's the most exotic," he said.
His next goal? "I understand there are 308 independent countries and island groups in the world, and I'd like to visit them all."