So I went to a restaurant - one which I often go to, in fact - and ordered the Monte Carlo sandwich. "That comes with fruit, doesn't it? And your fruit bowl always has strawberries mixed in, right?"
The waitress nodded.
"I can't eat strawberries. Can you do that without the fruit bowl but with a dip of applesauce instead?"
When the sandwich came it was accompanied by a bowl of applesauce and no side of fruit. However, the chef had carefully decorated the whole sandwich by placing gigantic strawberries - I'm talking baseball-sized strawberries - cut-side down all over the sandwich in a complex master-cheffy sort of eyecatching design. I blanched.
"Take this back," I said to the server, "I asked for no strawberries. I'm allergic to strawberries."
A few minutes later the waitress came running up. "You didn't say you were allergic to strawberries. You said no fruit because fruit contained strawberries!" she wailed. "I wrote 'no fruit side' on the order!"
It's a tasty sandwich, though, the Monte Carlo, when it's denuded of the Poison Devil Fruit. Ham, cheese and turkey on sourdough, dipped in egg and fried. Or something. Very American.
Californians love strawberries. In England you used to only be able to get them three weeks of the year, so you'd watch Wimbledon while eating several pounds of strawberries, and then have to wait until next year to have some more. Californians like to show off by having ginormous, perfect strawberries on everything (if they had Black Pudding, they'd put them on Black Pudding too, believe me) all year round. Especially December and January, those most summery of months. Meanwhile, decent god-fearing fruit like blackberries are only available for 0.017 seconds in September, having been trucked in from Tierra del Fuego by 20-mule teams on a go-slow along with their own weight in green powdery mold and small, angry worms that lurk at the bottom of the punnet to surprise the first-time eater. Chestnuts - admittedly not a fruit - are invariably rotten, almost as though that is the correct way to serve them, like Hundred Year-Old Eggs or lutefisk. But the delicate summer strawberry is always available and always mildew-free and uninfested by insects, and has learned, dishearteningly, to cunningly disguise itself under unassuming healthful vegetables the better to make me eat it by accident and break out in hives.
I've lost count of the number of strawberry birthday cakes and strawberries-and-cream well-done celebrations my cow-orkers have put on for me in California. Thanks, guys. Brings a tear to my eye. In fact, it brings a swelling to all my mucous membranes.