I WAKE UP SWEATING. This is as cool as I’m going to get today, I think. I lay there exhausted on waking before the sun rises. Is it dew or a fog? I’ll be in a flop sweat all day. Again.
Doesn’t take very long mowing lawn or gardening outdoors to work up a real hunger; even if the heat is nauseating. Searching under vines, I find lots of cucumbers have ripened overnight.
I’ve got one hard-boiled egg left in the fridge for breakfast. Cold comfort. Happy tummy. Makes the morning last when there’s no air conditioning and no fan. I’m certainly not going to turn on the stove to prepare meals. So what’s good to eat that soothes the stomach and doesn’t require cooking?
Take cucumber slices and spread Greek-style plain yoghurt between them, then roll the edges in freshly minced dill. It reminds me of my heritage; Swedes love cucumber sandwiches, and Grandma Swenson baked sandwich cookies with real butter and sour cream. Takes me back to cool summer memories of swinging in the backyard hammock.
Time for morning sun tea. No need to boil water. I cut a fistful of mint leaves early in the morning and toss them into a quart or gallon glass jar full of water. By placing it in the sun I have homebrewed iced tea before 10 a.m. The longer the sun infuses the mint oils into the water, the more potent the flavor. Mint counteracts the sweltering day.
For lunch, salad from the day’s garden goodies. The Romaine style lettuces are now ready to harvest and I’m still picking arugula, spinach, and swiss for a pretty bed of greens. The sweet peppers and Sebring yellow squash are tender cut as julienne strips. Sungold cherry tomatoes and minced fresh green onions set the salad on fire. The blossoms from pansies, nasturtiums and calendula adorn the salad plate with the taste of buttery petals, peppery pods, and velvety orange and yellow confetti. Toss and serve with chilled salad dressing.
It’s time to pull out the squeaky cheese curds for a cool afternoon snack. My favorites are the sundried tomato and basil curds from Sunset View Creamery in Odessa, NY. Yancey’s Fancy offers a killer horseradish curd, but that’s only if you subscribe to the theory that in order to feel cooler you have to get hotter.
There are those who would serve steaming hot sweet corn slathered in butter and salt for supper on a hot night like tonight. But I’m not. What am I making for dinner tonight? I’d like to make reservations, but I’m too hot to even go anywhere.
Growing up in the 1960s meant my family, like millions of others, would’ve piled into the Chevy Impala station wagon and headed to the A & W Drive-In. My sister, Barb, and I would sit in the “way way back” and hang out the window trying to catch a highway breeze. Dad would pull in, park, and order into the squawk-box like they used at outdoor movie theaters. Minutes later, out would come our burgers, fries and mugs of ice cold root beer carried by a sweet 16-year-old girl server who attached the tray to the driver’s side window. Just holding the frosty mug was a refreshment.
Tonight, Antipasto is an option. I could pull out all the pickle jars, find the good olives, slice up some cheese and pepperoni or salami, and cut up all the raw veggies. Bread and butter might be just enough to make it all work together as a meal.
Cold tuna salad sandwiches. Tomato stuffed with egg salad. No, that would require I boil more eggs. No. Cold cuts on rye bread. Frozen cooked shrimp, barely thawed in cocktail sauce. Oops, no shrimp in the freezer.
When the heat really gets obnoxious, I know many who resort to a meal of breakfast cereal with cold milk. Dairy products, however, make my seasonal allergies and physical ailments worse, so I’m prone to finding new food combos sans milk. This summer soup recipe came to me as I stared into the fridge wasting electricity, contemplating my cold food options.
Summer supper soup for when it’s too hot to cook or do anything
One quart of tomato juice (or V-8, a personal favorite) chilled
Cut up into small pieces a sweet green pepper, a small onion, a fresh ripe tomato
Mince ½ cup of fresh cilantro
Crush one clove of garlic
Juice one lime
Mix ingredients together in a pitcher. Pour yourself a bowl of unsweetened corn flakes. (You can substitute the leftover crushed tortilla chips from yesterday’s salsa fest.) Pour soup over flakes and serve immediately (cold). Optional garnishes: dollop of sour cream, celery sticks. Try to chill out, relax and go to sleep in this heat. Wake up and pour another bowl of cornflakes and cover with the chilled leftover soup for breakfast in case it’s too hot to do this all over again tomorrow.
Jill Swenson lives in Mecklenburg on a self-sustaining, third-generation family farm, where she sells local, hand-harvested, untreated seeds and rents eco-cabins in the summer. On Warren Pond Farm and Seed Company can be found on the web at onwarrenpondfarm.com.