Friday, July 29, 2011

Hot Time: Summer Memories

Pulled pork at the N.C. State Fair
Summer. Those golden months of hot farmer’s market vegetables, popsicles melting down your chin, camping trips, road trips, innertubing, sprinker jumping, family vacations, and longer days in which to cram more things.
PB&J with summer strawberries
When I was young(er) my mom would drive me and my brother, (my sister wasn't born yet) in her dark blue VW bug to her parent’s house in Columbia, SC. Chuck Berry and an opera I loved but now can’t remember the title played from the tape deck. Our dad met us there, after he was done with work. Once we were there, the sprinkler was stationed at the top of the hill in the back yard where we would jump and roll in the wet grass. My father taught us how to pluck the center stem from honeysuckle that hung heavy on the back porch and lick a tiny drop of nectar. Outside it smelled like hot cement, clay soil, damp moss, and honeysuckle. Inside smelled like tomatoes, corn on the cob, old ink written in old books, and roses. 

Cousins eating Bar-B-Que at the family farm
Trips to my dad’s parents during the summer when I was young smelled like cut hay, freshwater ponds, and musty leaves. Inside smelled like lavender, clean linen, old books, and fried catfish. I remember jumping from the tops of a tractor into one of the catfish ponds, making bowls from clay we found, and lying on my back in the waist high grass watching giant multi-colored grasshoppers twitch their legs on the biggest grass stalks.

David and the Picnic Strawberry
Now, the best part about summer is the food. (OK… and the camping trips and the family-beach-reunions and the long days in which to do nothing but read). When I was younger it was my parents and grandparents who made the summer food and certain foods take me back to those days: sweet iced tea, in a sweating glass, with mint leaves; fresh ripe tomatoes gushing seeds and tart-but-sweet juice; deep colored beets, baked in the oven or boiled and seasoned with only butter; golden crispy fried okra; strawberries still warm from the sun; basil leaves that leave their smell on my hands; the salty sweet meat of steamed clams and blue crabs. 

I have a thing for summer foods. I love how saturated they are, with color, with smell. I love that I can walk all grow-up like around the local farmers markets, pick out beautiful summer vegetables, and take them home to cook, creating new recipes and smells that will be the basis for new summer memories.

What are your favorite summer foods, drinks, memories?


  1. Oh man- for me it was picking strawberries at Mrs. Davidson's strawberry farm. And fresh peaches from Reese's fruit & veggie stand.

    Then there were summer trips up to my Nanny's. One time I ate eight ears of corn and could have gone back for fifths.

    And the time my granddad, Dude, caught me eating the shrimp that he and his brother had been peeling. He only noticed what I was up to after they had peeled almost thirty of the suckers and maybe a dozen were still left on the plate. He laughed, thankfully. ;)

  2. ohhhh i love my mom's left over shrimp salad after we've had steamed shrimp with old bay the night before.

    your story sounds familiar i bet my dad has one like it... that my sister or me or brother stole all his shrimp... then again maybe not we are pretty watchful of our peeled shrimp :)