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Saturday, June 21, 2014

'Strawberry kanne' ... the traditions of Wimbledon

When the whole sporting World is glued to FIFA – a great sporting event is set to take place from 23rd June to  6th July 2014..  no prizes for guessing… it is indeed the ‘Wimbledon’ predictably, the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and widely considered the most prestigious.  It has been held at the All England Club in London since 1877. The tournament takes place over two weeks in late June and early July, culminating with the Ladies' and Gentlemen's Singles Final, scheduled for the second Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Wimbledon is known for its traditions too…. they include a strict dress code for competitors, the eating of strawberries and cream by the spectators, and Royal patronage. The tournament is also notable for the absence of sponsor advertising around the courts.  Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam event which is still played on a natural surface i.e. on a grass court even after 132 years.  Please don’t remind me of Ivan Lendl and ‘grass is for cows’……  The top 5 seeds this year are :  Gentlemen’s Singles  : Novak Djokovic; Rafael Nadal; Andy Murray; Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka…. In women – it is Serena Williams; Li Na; Simona Halep; Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova. 

At Wimbledon,  ‘predominately in white rule’ was  introduced in 1963.  'Almost entirely in white rule' replaced it in 1995.  Thought, deciding on the day as to whether clothing/players' turnout is suitable at discretion is that of Referee – some guidelines are : No solid mass  of colouring; no dark colours; no flourscent colours too; shorts and skirts to be totally white; all other items of clothing including hats, socks and shoes to be almost entirely white.

If you have read the earlier paras well, one might be surprised to read of ‘tradition of strawberry’ ? ….. it is stated that serving strawberry began in 1953 and the cream was added to the traditional fare in 1970. Gradually, the two of these became an essential part of the tournament. By some statistics, around 28,000 kg are consumed during the fortnight; around 8615 punnets (2100 kg) containing minimum of 10 berries consumed daily, as they get served with over 7,000 litres of fresh cream. To ensure utmost freshness, strawberries are picked the day before being served, arrive at Wimbledon at around 5.30a.m where inspected before being hulled.

The garden strawberry (or simply strawberry) is a widely grown hybrid species of the genus Fragaria (collectively known as the strawberries). It is cultivated worldwide for its fruit. The fruit (which is not a botanical berry, but an aggregate accessory fruit) is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness. It is consumed in large quantities, either fresh or in such prepared foods as preserves, fruit juice, pies, ice creams,milkshakes, and chocolates. Artificial strawberry aroma is also widely used in many industrial food products.

Though some sources state that King George V introduced strawberries and cream to courtside crowds –  the tradition actually dates from around the time of the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877, according to Audrey Snell, a librarian at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. Strawberries and tennis, she said, both signalled the arrival of summer.  The official Wimbledon strawberry is the Elsanta variety, grown at farms in Kent. Picked the day before, they arrive at the championships at 5:30 a.m. for inspection and hulling. They are accompanied by double cream, which contains at least 48 percent butterfat.

If you are wondering of the first photo, it is a song sequence from the film - Minsara Kanavu (Electrifying Dreams !),  a 1997 Tamil romance film written and directed by Rajiv Menon. The film featured  Arvind Swamy, Prabhu Deva and Kajol in the lead roles.  The song ‘Strawberry kanne’ was sung by   Krishnakumar Kunnath   and Febi Mani

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
21st June 2014.

Source : Wimbledon.com – the official site.

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