I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever get over that panicked, awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that happens to me every August. The sense of dread that gnaws at my soul, making me feel like a petulant 10-year-old all over again, kicking and screaming, refusing to get on board the Back-to-School bus.
For that reason, I hate going into stores this time of the year and seeing the cold, hard retail facts staring me in the face that confirm my seasonal denial. Shelves, that only a few months prior were streaked with bright, cheery terry cloth towels and cherry-flavored snow cone makers with the attached promise of sun-drenched, carefree days, are now lined with legions of Number 2 pencils, composition books and backpacks that scream of alarm clocks and reality checks. Somewhere over in the corner is a reset for incoming Halloween merchandise. And the crushing reality that adds insult to my injury: Spying the last pair of glittered flip flops discarded in the lonely clearance bin next to the red, white and blue melamine bowls and plates. It bums me out because that can only mean one thing: Summer’s unofficially over.
Sure, we’ve had a great time. We got some lake time in. Not as much as we wanted to due to: (a) rain – and lots of it and (b) work – lots of it – and other bothersome obligations that had the audacity to get in the way of our catching some hydrotherapy on our boat when the sun was shining and the mercury was stuck in the upper 90’s.
But I’m just not ready to let summer go.
It’s not like I don’t know the drill. Hey, I worked in the publication industry and I have first-hand experience with the selling of wares to grasp the need for merchants to chase that next big seasonal holiday before we consumers are anywhere near being ready for it. Don’t get me wrong. I love fall and all things apple and butternut squash. But I’m not finished with summer. Not just now. I can’t be. I’m not sick of zucchini yet.
It’s weird, but August makes me freak out. I am an eternal optimist by nature (Adam stop laughing) but something happens as soon as I flip my calendar’s July page and the blank announcement that the new month brings is like a cruel catalyst, and I get this sudden, unreasoning fear about the fleeting passage of time and it sends me spinning.
My mind races with deep, dark thoughts that send me spiraling, alla the staircase scene from Vertigo: It’s already August! Have I been to the farmer’s market enough? September and autumn…another birthday is just right around the corner! And then, oh, my God…it’s [x] number of days until Christmas! Will my niece really turn nine in December? Really? How is that even possible? What are we gonna do about New Year’s? Oh, jeez! Have I accomplished what I set out to do before the year is over? And dread of all dread…that means winter is almost here and…And that means it will be six or seven more months before I’ll have another decent tomato!!!
Then, I calm down (a cocktail usually helps) and scold my lunatic self that it’s still August. Not the end of August. It’s not yet Labor Day, so there’s still time to discuss whether it’s really no longer a fashion faux pas to continue to wear white after summer’s final long weekend.
And I remind myself that there’s still plenty of time to savor the bounty of the season. Still time to eat ears and ears of grilled tender-crisp corn with plenty of honey butter. Still time for more cool, shaved salads of long, elegant cucumber ribbons kissed with a fresh herby dressing. And heirloom tomato sandwiches. On white bread. The kind of bread that sticks to the roof of your mouth when you take a bite. Spread with good mayonnaise, of course, and a little salt and cracked pepper on the ruby slices is all you need to be this shy of heaven.
Still time to get as many ripe blueberries, dark as night blackberries and juicy peaches down my hatch as humanly possible. Still time to fire up the grill and make pizzas and flatbreads. Still time to savor being outdoors. So when the icy winds of January blow and my golden, bronze tan is nothing but a faint memory, I can close my eyes…and remember…and taste summer all over again.
But for now, it’s still summertime. And I’m still loving it.
Hailing from southern Spain, gazpacho is a refreshing cold soup full of puréed fresh vegetables. It’s like a chunky liquid salad…the taste of summer in a bowl.
- one large seedless watermelon
- 4 medium tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 hothouse cucumber, coarsely chopped
- 1 red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
- 2 cups tomato juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- pinch of sugar
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process enough chunks of watermelon to yield 3 cups juice (I used half the melon). Pour the juice through a fine mesh strainer into a large glass measure, pushing on the pulp to release the juice until you have 3 cups. Discard solids. Pour the juice into a large bowl. Cut up enough remaining watermelon into small chunks to measure 2 cups. Add the fruit to the watermelon juice.
- Place the tomatoes, red pepper, cucumber, onion, garlic and poblano in the now-empty food processor bowl. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Combine the vegetables with the watermelon and juice; add in the tomato juice, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: The soup keeps well for several days in the refrigerator. In fact, the longer it sits, the more the flavors develop.
Product Purity: I use organic tomato juice, which I think makes a big difference in the flavor of the gazpacho.
Presentation: I scored some gorgeous micro greens at the farmer’s market this past weekend and knew it would be the perfect garnish – along with a few thin slices of cucumber for this delicious soup. Also try serving them as shooters at your next get-together – they’re fun and look great on a buffet.