The Green Man reminded me this week that we’re only a few weeks away from the Summer Solstice.
For many of us, Summer is a time to recharge, to maybe take things a little bit easier, to really enjoy nature, and time with friends and family, and a more casual approach to dressing, cooking, and life in general. Some of us (teachers, students, and parents) are out of school and the daily routine of getting up early, getting to school, coming home and dealing with homework and, then, making sure lunch is packed and the uniforms are clean for tomorrow gives way to a more relaxed approach. Some of us take vacations and head for the mountains, the beach, someplace interesting to sight-see. In DC, the rush-hour traffic becomes distinctly more bearable. The sun (and the birds!) are up earlier and go down later. We linger on the porch with a glass of iced tea to watch the fireflies begin their ancient dance. I always pick mint from the pots on my deck to crush into the iced tea.
All of this connects us to our ancestors who also found Summer a time of ease and plenty when compared to Winter’s freeze. They built giant stone temples that aligned directly with the sun on the Summer Solstice and, we imagine, must have celebrated a date that they found so significant.
Here, in the Magical MidAtlantic, we had an unusually wet and cool May, and, so, many herbs and crops are just beginning to come in. I went to the farmers’ market this morning and they still had “early Spring” produce such as strawberries and asparagus and it was difficult to find “Summer” produce such as tomatoes and peaches.
Nonetheless, here on my little bit of Earth, all the windows are open and, often, at night, the bedside fan is on, as well. The cats spend the day on the sun-warmed terra-cotta tiles on the porch and only reluctantly come in for the night; after all, there are fireflies to watch!
G/Son is out of school and will be coming to stay for a week; we’ll do fun Summer things, including dropping Nonna’s coins into the local batting cages and game arcade, going to see a summer movie, playing Uno on warm Summer mornings on the porch, and reading “Summer books,” the ones you read because you want to and not because they were assigned. (Our week may well start with a trip to Politics & Prose, one of D.C.’s best bookstores.) Tomorrow, my state senator has his annual ice cream social and I think we’ll go give him the benefit of our thoughts on several issues. And, have an ice cream cone. After all, it’s Summer.
I’ve put away my warm Winter slippers and shifted to flip flops. (My bad boy cat, Merlin, thinks they’re an invitation to attack my feet.) G/Son will live in a tank top and shorts.
I cook a lot differently in Summer, as well. First, it’s often too hot to run the oven, so dinner may well be fresh produce or something out of the blender. Today, I made cheese straws to take to political meetings this week and to have on hand for unexpected guests. I popped some short ribs into the slow cooker with soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar, beef broth, garlic, and sesame oil. And, I made squash pie. Squash pie is one of the best things on Earth. Today, I made it with zucchini, yellow squash, a slightly-shriveled orange pepper, onions, and, since I had them on hand, garlic scapes. After sautéing those in Frances Mayes’ olive oil, I whisked together some half-and-half and two eggs, spread grated cheese over the whole mess, and popped it in the oven. Really, this is wonderful. Maybe a BLT with a real tomato is a bit better, but this is close to the best food on Earth.
What are you cooking now that the fish are jumping and the cotton is high? What’s on your Summer reading list? How do you recharge your batteries this time of year? Where would you spend the Summer if you could spend it anywhere you like? It’s you last Summer meal, ever. Peach ice cream, corn on the cob, a BLT, or a G&T?