Today I want to talk about summer and the unique nostalgia that it all invokes. Food is certainly a big part of that, but it's more a feeling that I'll try to capture here, fleeting as it seems to be.
The summertime feelings have always lingered for me, I just could never really get a grasp on them. In early summer, it means the jarring transition from comfortable routines and social bubbles to entirely new routines. Friends that I've grown accustomed to seeing often seem to vanish into thin air with the advent of warmer air.
Early summer also means a complete change in physiology. I move from constantly trying to curl into myself, to finding warmth, to finding comfort -- to opening up, to inhaling the fresh air, and to wanting food to be a complement to my moods rather than a salve. I feel the deep need to lose myself in books, remembering days when I'd do just that (oh, how lucky I was).
The food complements my mood. Just as I'm slow to relax and surrender to the pace of the season, I'm slow to transition to "summer" food. When I do, I'm all in. Berries arrive, and my mornings start with that simple pleasure of those tart blues, the sweet surprise of red strawberries and first visits to local farmer's markets - old friends to greet anew. The greens are plentiful, and salads become more of a dinner option than lunch.
Mid-summer inevitably arrives, the height of local produce and my indulgence in the season. Sensory experiences bring back such visceral and startling memories daily. I shuck corn, and remember not only doing it for my mother...but exactly how I felt a bit annoyed about it and comforted in the routine. Often daddy would join me. I remember everything about that moment, from the smell to the texture. It astonishes me. I'm comforted by memories of a friend's farm, and that corn. Oh....that corn. I thought most of New Jersey was farms.
I see crab on the menu at a restaurant, and remember joyful, carefree Fourth of July spent at my grandmother's house in Maryland, with few memories of my parents, but more memories of running wild with my cousins. I remember my sweet uncle and daddy's best friend. His pure enjoyment of crabs...wine...all of it. Afterwards, we'd look at the stars that he now is amongst. Funny that I can barely see them where I live now. How lucky I was. That first bite of watermelon -- sweet relief from that first crushing wall of heat. I smell distant grill smoke and I think of countless barbecues and that sweet release. That anticipation of things getting a little bit....looser, a little bit more free. Something always waiting to happen.
I take a taste of my husband's beer, and remember college nights, parties even further back under the stars with not a care in the world, but also a sense of longing for something else. Always something else. Something more. Ice cream in a sugar cone (what kind of monster eats out of a wafer cone?) and without fail I'm always right back in that place where I worked. The local gathering place, watching the churn of homemade, learning how to make a real coffee. Learning how to mop like a boss -- I still remember the songs we'd blast. It was the first job that I loved, and also one that put me off ice cream for a year or two. But oh, how lucky I was.
The end of summer creeps up all too fast, once again I feel that unease creeping back as I anticipate major changes ahead. Crickets and cicadas sing their songs fervently, they knew before me that it all would come to an end. The leaves start to fall slowly - it seems to come earlier and earlier every year. The light starts its noticeable retreat. First, in the morning, and then at night although we don't talk about it until we have to. A first taste of sweet apples, dreams of comforting fall food. I'm getting ready. Dreams of beaches and sun are starting to be replaced by the warm glow of a fire and drawing back into myself.
Summer has truly become such a time of reflection for me and a much needed chance to think about where I'm going. The simple pleasures of food, experiences and truly living life are what make this season a highlight of the year. Lessons I learn now I will carry with me through the cold winter months until again....the joy of these dog days will return. In the end, this is a time to remember just how lucky I was in my childhood, but also how lucky I am now to be living this life, and experiencing summer once again.