Friday, September 04, 2009

The Last Taste of Summer

Labor Day is the last hurrah of summer...yeah, yeah, it can get back up to 90+ degrees in October in the South, but officially, Labor Day Weekend is the last 3 days to pack in as much fun, sun, barbecue, and watermelon as you possibly can in 3 short days.

I'm munching down on part of a watermelon that I caged from my mother, who got it and a wonderful, mouth-watering tomato, from some random roadside stand. This particular watermelon is one of those Holy Grail foods that you remember from your childhood...a food that in memory is so good, so succulent, so tasty, that you search for that elusive flavor for the rest of your life, trying to recapture those lost moments in time.

(I've also got some half-remembered recipe for cinnamon rolls made from canned biscuits, with butter, sugar, and cinnamon, that are covered with milk. When they bake, the bottom is kind of sweet and gooey, and the top has a flaky cinnamon crust. I've been trying to replicate this recipe since I was in grade school, and saw the lady who ran our summer day care make these. I would have walked miles on hot coals for these things. I can't seem to get the ratios right to make them correctly. I haven't tried in years and year, but maybe it's time once again.)

While visiting my mom earlier in the week, she managed to talk me into taking half of this large watermelon. I agreed to humor her, mainly because I sort of found it interesting that she was channeling her 1950s mom genes and foisting food on me...even though it wasn't food she made herself. : )

I cut in to the melon and take off that little ragged edge that I always seem to make when whacking a melon in half...symmetry is just not my style...and popped it in my mouth. It was breathtaking in its sweetness and flavor--just so watermelony--not like those half-ripened bland melons that appear in the produce section. The flavor took me back to countless summer weekends, sitting around the kitchen table with my grandmother, eating so much watermelon that we thought we would burst. For us, for some reason, we only ate watermelon on the weekends or at some family reunion/get-together. It wasn't an every day food, and I guess, somewhere deep down, I've always felt like watermelon is special treat, because we made such a production out of eating it. Now, I realize that it was probably because of the messiness factor, laying down newspaper to catch the liquid and trying not to get seeds everywhere, and then saving seeds of an especially good melon and trying to grow it again next year.

My grandmother always ate her watermelon with a sprinkle of salt, and always encouraged me to try it that way, but I'm a purist. I like it unadulterated and usually in a slice that I can eat directly sort of makes me feel a little like a Lost Boy, probably from that primal part of my brain that likes to gnaw on a pork chop bone, too...which she always says we could do at home but not at other people's houses...unless they were relatives, because all my relatives would gnaw on a pork chop bone and not think twice about it. (And let's face it, most everyone else gnaws their pork chop bones in the privacy of their own homes, too.)

My grandmother died 3 Labor Day weekends ago, and I still miss her and I think about her every time I eat an especially good watermelon...a "homegrown" one, bought from a little old man out of the back of a pickup truck, like some illicit produce dealer. And, you know which of these "truck farmers" have the best stuff. "Psst, dude--you got any of them melons you had last week? Yeah, the ones that were real red and sweet...I need 2 this time. And 'maters--I need some 'maters, too."

Watermelon wasn't the only thing on the menu this weekend--I experimented with the smoker and grilled a bit, and I'll write more about that later, after get some coherent recipe together for the Bourbon-Brined Pork Butt that really did turn out awesome, even if it destroyed the house.

But for now, I'm going to eat my watermelon and watch The Closer...a guilty please that I have come to late in the series life, and wish summer could last forever like it seemed to when I was young. And, Grandmama, I love you, but I'm still not putting salt on my watermelon.

No comments: