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The modern grocery store attempts to convince us that all conceivable foods are fresh and available the whole year round, but that is not truly the case, at least not as nature intended. Anyone with a functioning taste bud or two knows the difference between freshly-picked summer tomatoes ripened on the vine at the height of the season and those disappointing bland tomatoes picked too soon and ripened in the trailer of a truck heading north. There is just no comparison.When the “real” tomato crop emerged at the roadside stands, my Aunt Grace loved nothing more than to cut the bright tomatoes into wedges and salt them heavily, but I’ve been in other homes where folks instead added sugar to the red slices. My wife, of Italian-American descent, prefers a dribble of olive oil and some minced basil for seasoning. Fresh, earthy tomatoes are the true sign of summer in my world, followed by fresh corn. Once the kernels reach their most plump and luscious state, I could eat corn on the cob at every meal.
What foods say to you that it is “truly summer”?
If you are city born and bred like me, it may be those items that showed up in mid-July at the local farmers’ market. If you grew up on the farm, I’m guessing the memories may be very different. If you grew up next to a peach orchard, I’m sure your reminiscences include the freshest of fruit. If you spent every summer “down the shore,” you may be thinking right now of salt-water taffy and cotton candy. And of course, food choices are always influenced by ethnicity and family recipes.
What did your people make for the picnic?
Potato salad?Baked beans? Ice cream churned from scratch? Polish sausage grilled out on a fire escape? Not all food memories have to be “yum yum” good, either. Did you help with the harvest, and after so many hours in the field you couldn’t stand a single ear of corn? Or did you come from one of those families that always had too much zucchini, resulting in zucchini omelets, zucchini bread, zucchini casserole, and zucchini pie?
No matter what your summer eating memory, try to put us there, at the grill, at the table, in the kitchen, at the beach, wherever the smells and tastes and recollections are the strongest. Let us know how your family made a summer meal special. Try to make us hungry.