I do not unequivocally love summer. Of course I enjoy the pleasure of soft, lightweight clothing, and the ability to move around without fear of slipping on a treacherous patch of ice and breaking my neck. I appreciate the pretty sandals, the birds and rhythmic chirping things, the warm, complex scent of the garden in the moonlight. And swimming, above all, in a clear lake or better yet, the ocean, ferocious and tranquil, hot and cold at once, like a hot-fudge sundae.
But a day at the beach, no thank you. Because I’m a white lady of a certain age with the English-Irish skin that goes pink in minutes and (if you’re an idiotic twenty-something at the shore in the baby oil-and-iodine era) blisters well into the second degree before you can say “pass the G&T.” Now I have what the TV calls those horrid age spots and don’t walk out the door without sunblock, a wide-brimmed hat, and long, Victorian sleeves. Also, I wilt in the heat, and not in a nice, rose-like way.
Summer food, on the other hand.
Can I get an Amen for gazpacho with basil hummus? For salads, morning, noon, and night: baby soft lettuces, bedazzled with herbs and flowers, tossed with upstart asparagus, Easter egg potatoes, a friend’s overflow tomatoes, radishes, shaved corn, grilled garlic scapes.
Only summer can deliver unto us the juicy globes of tomatoes, peaches, and melon. The watermelons of childhood memory, the sticky chins, the fruit-dyed fingers, ankles itchy from picking berries in a hay-mulched field.
My husband says that God put seeds in raspberries to mitigate their perfection; otherwise they would be so sublime that we would die of pleasure. And elderberries? Now we’re talking seeds, but after a bit of thrashing about with the food mill the other day, I was pleased to render a cup of elderberry syrup, which I strew on a coconut panna cotta.
Amen also to the squash blossom, neither sweet nor juicy, a by-product of the zucchini crop, for sale only by the rarest of vendors one suspects of fetching them after midnight. It was the squash blossom that gave me the idea for this post because in their evanescence they most perfectly represent the summer table.
I harvest mine, with permission, from my next-door neighbors’ backyard vegetable patch. There were fewer this year, for they learned the hard way that squash plants go a long way, but enough for two or three meals. (Certain trolls inside my computer have hidden all my blossom pix, so I’m borrowing this from the darling Darling Farm.) First, I check for bees. They like to loiter inside the yellow folds and do not take kindly to disturbances in their field. Forgoing the ricotta filling, I dip those lovely blossoms into a tempura batter, as light as can be, sauté them in a flash, and serve to those who are worthy.
The vegan police will have noticed the inclusion of soft-boiled eggs in the nicoise above. I apologize for nothing. I continue to practice a plant-based diet because I like it and so does my body, but I do not let it get in the way of living. When I found myself rather hysterically hungry at a Detroit Tigers’ game in July, there was nothing for it but a Polish sausage with the works. And if the ice cream truck were to drive by, playing it’s little ding-dong jingle, I’d be there.