catching at the opportunity

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Perhaps we just need to relax our ambitions a bit.

Sometimes, I feel a little envious of those who live in the city. In the city, no one is on vacation. They sweat it out on the blacktop walking to work in the exaggerated heat, escaping into tall, air-conditioned office buildings. They work all week or all July or all whatever period they can make it  and then maybe, if they’re lucky, they escape to water or woods for time away. At least, that’s how I think of it.

Up here? We’re just away all the time. And although there’s water and woods and ice cream and everything else, there’s also just life.  The only difference is that it’s summer life. And the result is that I find myself talking with friends over and over, and we’re a bit like a summer mix broken record.

Can you believe it’s summer already I can’t even find the summer clothes in the basement so the kids are just naked which they don’t seem to mind i haven’t been swimming yet you should come over we should drink summer cocktails on the porch when was the last time we did that aren’t things supposed to slow down in the summer once i get through this rush of work i can’t even get through town for the traffic we should really go swimming when should we get together…

But still, the summer creeps in. It seems there’s no stopping it.

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Summer is my favorite season for eating but not for cooking. We eat outside on the back porch, trying to grab up that moment when the sun is low and lovely but the bugs aren’t swarming. Dinner is salad, or something equally cold, or sometimes popcorn and popsicles. Everything is herby, because that’s what’s growing. I make a lot of salad dressing and simple syrup.

The week before last, we dropped everything and took a 10-minute road trip over to The Bistro Box on route 7 heading out towards Sheffield. The Bistro Box is the newest occupant of a little roadside stand that’s held a new business every year. We ordered burgers and fries and sat on the lawn behind the stand next to the spike set up for horseshoes. It was a great lunch, and now every time someone asks me for a food recommendation, I send them there. You have to bring your own blanket, but it’s pretty good summer food.

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My favorite summer cookbook is Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking. It’s a tiny paperback with no photos (this is all I can find that’s similar online, but you might have good luck digging through a used bookstore). Elizabeth David begins the introduction to to the US Penguin edition with just about the best definition of summer food that has been or ever will be:

As I understand it, summer cooking means the extraction of maximum enjoyment out of the produce which grows in the summer and is appropriate to it. It means catching at the opportunity of eating fresh food freshly cooked… To many people, summer food means cold food. That should not mean congealed, over-refrigerated lifeless food. A chicken chicken slow-roasted in the morning, left to cook, and eaten cold at lunch time can be a true treat. Kept until the next day it is just a cold chicken… Summer cooking implies therefore a sense of immediacy, a capacity to capture the essence of a fleeting moment.

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Here’s to the moments of away that creep in, even when we’re going about our here life. I’m happy to be in a season so insistent and tenacious. And I’ll keep trying to “capture the essence of a fleeting moment,” especially when I can fit it on a plate.


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13 Responses to catching at the opportunity

  1. Dawnelle says:

    This post is spot on. Especially the part about the summer mix broken record, lol. I make a lot of different salads in the summer for dinner. I just made a smoked rotisserie chicken salad with fresh chives, basil and thyme. It was really good. Something else I made recently was spinach walnut feta pesto over fine egg noodles and I eat it cold. It tastes fabulous! I used your pesto recipe to guide me. :) I have some great sweet red wine from a local winery here in Maryland, and want to get some sweet cherries to make a sorbet. I have some watermelon and cantaloupe that I need to use and I want to make popsicles with them. I have Fany Gerson’s book Paletas I’ve been dying to make stuff from, and she had recipes for both those popsicles. There’s also my fav cake that I love to no end. It’s a lightly lemon cake with fresh blueberries baked into the top and lightly sprinkled with sugar. I might try it with strawberries and extra vanilla instead. :)

  2. Nolo says:

    I’ve just come to accept the following, “Summer is my favorite season for eating but not for cooking.” Thanks for helping me see what has been behind my cooking rut!

  3. I have worked over the years to refine my summer cooking so that it feels fun and not onerous. I rely heavily on the farmer’s market! We’re having bruschetta and grilled bread tonight, with the first pricey ears of corn on the grill. and then Jeni’s ice cream. I make a lot of Jeni’s ice cream in the summer.

    • alana says:

      You know I don’t have the Jeni’s book, and I’ve wanted it ever since it came out? I think I need to bite the bullet this summer.

      • Anastasia says:

        Oh Alana, you sooooo need Jeni’s book. It’s amazing. Dangerous in-bed reading, but amazing.
        Shall I tell you a secret? I use her book for ice cream flavor ideas, but your vanilla recipe as the base for everything. That recipe of yours has really been a game-changer for me – so simple, so fantastic.
        Thank you. xoxoxo :)

  4. and WOOT!!! my library has the Elizabeth David book! I’m excited to look at it.

  5. JF Brown says:

    Fruit. Lots and lots, as soon as it is local and available. Cheese in chunks. Hard-boiled eggs, or a quick scramble, and salads with beans, previously crock-pot cooked, now frozen. And fruit.
    That Davis book was in my collection forever, and now seems to be gone, and I now recall days spent reading it, though never made a single thing from it… there was fruit instead.

    • alana says:

      I’m absolutely with you on the fruit. We’re just coming into cherries right now, and I feel like I could just live on cherries and plain yogurt.

  6. Margit Van Schaick says:

    Alana, I see your garden in the photo with the hammock. That reminds me that my garden is the main source for ingredients for my Summer eating! Some raw, in salads or seasoned and rolled up in thin-slice turkey breast from the Mennonite store up the hill. Love to add hard-boiled best-quality eggs like in your lead photo. A good friend picked strawberries at the local organic farm–I bought three pounds from her. Gave a pound to another friend as a gift (along with 5 cups of newly-picked sugar snap peas), and I ate the rest with a little sugar and a generous glug of half and half. This, sine Monday morning! That, to me, is the essence and glory of Summer eating.

    • alana says:

      Oh, Margit- that’s my idea of the perfect monday morning, And 5 cups of peas! The peas are slow to come here, and I haven’t had a single one yet.

  7. alwayshungry says:

    “my favorite season for eating, not cooking”
    “Capturing the essence of a fleeting moment”
    spot on.
    Thanks Alana.

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