Summertime and the livin' is easy. You can supply the musical notes. Don't you love it?
If I were playing the old word-association game, I'd say, "Long, striped, sugary watermelons, juicy peaches at the peak of perfection ... and a big basket of red tomatoes with a salt shaker and a bib."
It doesn't get any better than this.
We used to take our cues from the lazy old hound dogs flattened on the earth, trying to soak up some of the delicious coolness. When they had to move to the feeding dish they'd amble along like a turtle with bunions. It illustrates that 105-degree heat reduces everything to slow motion.
We had global warming before it had a name. Now I think 80 degrees is unbearable.
It was on such a day that I interrupted some must-do work to make a flying trip to the mailbox. What I pulled from the box finished my day's work. I was holding two cookbooks from daughter Vicki called "White Trash Cookin'" and "Sinkin' Spells, Hot Flashes, Fits and Cravins."
I made the mistake of opening the first page and no force on earth could have pried them from my fingers! (Do I sound like Charlton Heston?) Never in my life have I seen anything like them. Here are a few recipes from the table of contents:
Rack of Spam, Boloney Roll-ups, Patina Blair's Sick Soup, Mama Ellen's Fried Chittlins, Liver Mush, Sarah's Stepped on Cornbread, Sluicey Dab in a Foot Tub, Oleen's Stuffed Pepper Slippers, Prayer Meetin Punch, Sawmill Gravy and Cathead Biscuits, Cooter (Turtle) Stew, Gaitor Tail, Roast Possum and Chestine's Deviled Fish Eggs.
There were hundreds more that I doubt you'll ever see on Chef Mario Batali's menu or in the meat case at Whole Foods. I was and still am fascinated by these books, the stories are outrageous, too. I have not made any of the recipes, but I found this one I do often without knowing I needed a recipe for it -- and you probably do too. For fun, here it is:
Kitchen Sink Tomato Sandwich
At the peak of the season, chill 1 large or 2 medium ripe tomatoes. They should have a good "acidy" bite to them. Take 2 slices of bread and coat them with 1/4 inch of good mayonnaise. On one piece of bread, slice a layer of 1/4-inch tomato slices, sprinkle salt and pepper, add another layer, again salt and pepper. Place the top slice of bread on this. Roll up your sleeves and commence to eat over the kitchen sink, while the juice runs off your elbows.
I'm sure we've all had variations of this. Tomatoes are summer.
For all of you who love the Cherry Festival, and those who don't, this is for you. Since cherry pie is the epitome of the celebration, it reminds me of this old Granny story. Maybe she could have helped them with the baking this week? It seems our little kitchen queen consistently produced the most beautiful pies of all the local bake sales and church pie socials. One lady finally asked her how she always got such a perfectly crimped edge on her crusts. Granny pondered and fidgeted and finally said, "Well, it's a family secret. I've never told anyone, but if you promise never to tell I'll share my secret with you."
"OK," the woman responded. "I promise."
Granny said, "First I roll out the bottom crust, smooth and even and press it in the pan firmly against the edge with a little overlap. Then I put the cherries in and gently put the top crust on."
Granny came close, leaned over and in a half-whisper said, "Then I take out my teeth and just run them clear around the edge of the crust."
Granny straightened up, flashed a toothy smile and said, "Yep, It's hard to improve on perfection!"
Makes you wonder about your last bake-sale pie, doesn't it? Whoa, Granny.
The Putney berries are coming on out in our area. I went to Leslie's farm today and the red raspberries have started and the Saskatoons are ripe and so sweet. They have wonderful huge sweet blackberries late on. They were great-grandson Gus' favorite pie last year, but I think his grandma's rhubarb may have trumped it. Aren't we fortunate to have all the wonderful fruits and produce in our area? Thanks to our hard-working growers.
Seems like it's been easier to use the oven so far this summer. I have made and frozen this recipe twice already. A little nuking and you've got a good nourishing hot dish. It's great with anything grilled and can be vegetarian by substituting mushroom soup for the cream of chicken.
Zucchini and Dressing Casserole
6 c. sliced zucchini, can use half summer squash
1 diced onion
Boil together in salted water 10 minutes. Drain well.
1 c. grated carrot
1 box Croutettes or Stovetop Stuffing
1 can cream of chicken Soup
1 c. sour cream
1/2 stick melted oleo
A few leaves of crumbled dried sage, optional
Mix all ingredients but cheese together. Spray a 10x10-inch (or equivalent) baking dish and spread mixture evenly. Sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes Serves 8.
Only when the last tree has died
and the last fish has been caught
and the last river poisoned
will we realize that we can't eat money.
-- 19th-century Cree Indian poem
Edna Shaffer is a local mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who writes about cooking from the perspective of an older adult. She can be reached via the Record-Eagle at 120 W. Front, Traverse City, Mi 49685; or by sending e-mail to email@example.com.