By Mims Cushing
Can it be true? Can summer be almost, sort of, kind of over? Up North the official sign of fall is Labor Day. Ummmm. Feel the breeze. Down here? No. It’s still roasting for a couple of months.
Some would argue that in Florida we enjoy another month or two of hot weather after Labor Day. (Is “enjoy” the right word?) Up North we’d complain that summers were never long enough; it’s finally warm by July 1. Down here, by July 1, it’s been hot since May, so we’re sure fall must be coming up soon, but cool weather is months away. Summers are hard for those who perspire even in air conditioned movies. When Labor Day pops up in Florida and wraps itself around our mind, autumn cool is not a comin’ in.
Sam, my ex-husband who was hell-bent on moving to Florida in 1990, knew I struggled in Connecticut when the temps went above 80 degrees. He was smart. He moved us to Florida in one of the months we call “The Reason We Moved to Florida.” And one of those months is November. By November we are dry cleaning our sweaters and wearing them. Everywhere. Woolly, cozy, fleecy, cashmere-y and delicious. From LL Bean or Land’s End. Big bulky ones, fine textured ones. Sweaters are one reason to crave fall weather. Taking longer walks when the weather is apple crisp is another. Opening windows — well, we barely do that down here.
But there are good things about summer that should be honored. I’ve come up with many: strawberries, raspberries, apricots, grapes, figs, cherries, watermelon, cantaloupe, blackberries, honeydews, gooseberries, peaches, pluots, plums, nectarines, boysenberries, … and did I mention peaches? I have dared to eat a peach several times this summer, and yum is the word. We can sometimes get summer fruits year ‘round — but they are cheaper in summer and more delicious than in January. You can also get many of them in the freezer aisle, and we are told they are probably fresher when frozen than when they dribble to us on trucks and trains.
Vegetables don’t stack up as treats for me, but great tomatoes (I know they are fruits) and wonderful corn are high up on the list, plus arugula, cauliflower, cukes, eggplant. You can count kale and mustard greens as summer veggies, but in my book, they are spawn of the devil. I try to choke them down once in awhile just to see if my tastebuds have changed. Not happening. Okra (okrae?) are slimy little fellers. Peppers, spinach, summer squash, peas. A couple of years ago I made a casserole with English peas and my friend, an adult, spent 10 minutes picking out every single pea with her fork and putting them on the side of her plate to ignore.
And then there’s one more thing I consider the ultimate summer treat, even though you can get them year ‘round: salty caramel ice cream bars. Salty caramel —that’s “car-a-mel;” please do not pronounce it “carmel”— is the taste du jour. Caramel is in some brands of coffees, cookies, cakes, pies, pretzels, smoothies and biscotti that you dip in coffee. I try to convince myself caramel biscotti are a fruit or a vegetable, so I don’t feel too guilty eating them. Shamefully wrong of me. These little monkeys are tasty in summer, fall, winter, spring … morningtime, eveningtime, suppertime, anytime. Eat one while you’re waiting for marshmallows to melt on your chocolate for ‘smores.
You didn’t really think summer was all about eating fruits and veggies, did you?