It’s officially Summer. It’s officially hot, and that’s just the way I like it.
Sweltering temperatures and soaring humidity bring many things. Like its sweeter cousin, Spring, Summer has its own set of gifts it brings.
For some, Spring means rising sap, blossoming fertility, spring-fever, the birds and the bees. Spring means the first spring vegetables are in season (did you miss all my goings on about Spargel?! not impressed with that Spring vegetable), white shoes are allowed. Rebirth, renewal, warmer temperatures.
But, Summer? Summer is Spring’s older, wilder, loose sister, the promiscuous friend we all wanted , some had, and every body wanted to hang out with (even if you didn’t admit it, you know you wanted to).
Remember Poison Ivy? Yeah. I thought you might.
I thought I’d share with you my favorite things about Summer, in no particular order.
First up, less clothing. Less clothing somehow translates into longer looks, downright stares, increased heart rates … you get the idea.
There’s something different about Summer in the South – I don’t know exactly what it is, but men in the South linger over women in sundresses, or shorts, or tank tops. Not lecherously. Somehow , Southern men manage to gawk at a woman in the summertime in a way that makes her feel like a woman, not like a steak. I can’t explain it, I don’t know how they’ve cornered that market, but I like it.
Southern Summers bring out the smaller skirts, the flimsier blouses. White linen pants with heels, bare shoulders. Sun-kissed skin, and men notice. Politely.
Men elsewhere in the country are not always so successful at making women in sundresses feel appreciated. Most of the time we feel violated (Remember Blake from Columbus , OH ? Yes. Unfortunately, he’s all too common – in more ways than one). So, guys, take a lesson from a Southern gentleman when you can. And then, come see us in the South.
Did I forget to mention that tanned forearms get me all a-flutter? Especially toned. There are just more of them around in the Summer. Pair them with a set of kick-ass calves that I don’t get to see in cooler months, and I might just follow you home.
Secondly, balmy nights.
Before you take your mind *completely* to the gutter, think of this: fireflies. Not the song, but I do like it.
Actual fireflies. Lightning bugs. They’re magic. You used to catch them in a jar. Maybe you thought they were fairies (are you sure they aren’t?)
Now, close your eyes. Imagine sitting on a glider, in the humid night air. The air smells like a thunderstorm is coming. You’re watching the fireflies dart across the sky, the grass, against the “skyline” of the trees… you hear the crickets, treefrogs, cicadas, a whipporwill if you’re lucky… and you’re seated next to a total hottie. Warm , slightly sticky skin pressed against your forearm or thigh…. just watching and listening. Nothing else.
The chemistry is unbearable. You cannot match that in any other season. Not next to a campfire, not in a ski lodge, not on a Spring stroll (not even in the rain). You can’t. I dare you to try.
Next, magnolias. They’re amazing. They’re gigantic. They’re amazingly fragrant. And, they’re beautifully Southern. They remind me of the old South (at least, what I imagine it to be) – the old South of the fantasy 1950’s movies, not the reality of the old South (trying to keep things light here…). I’m not sure where the expression originated, but Urban dictionary defines a Steel Magnolia as “A southern woman who is strong and independent yet very feminine.” Coincidence that I love magnolias? I think not.
Not to be reproduced without permission.
I can’t forget about a very important part of Summer: Farmer’s Markets.
Not to be reproduced without permission.
The variety of people, let alone the incredible fresh local produce, are unbeatable. Some of the kindest, gentlest, most genuine people vend and shop at farmer’s markets. Some of the best tomatoes, cucumbers and squash I’ve ever eaten have come from farmer’s markets. And, if you like chevre, you must try some from a local artisan. Beats the pants off of anything you can buy at the store, guaranteed.
Finally (and this ranks right up there with the sound of crickets and cicadas on that porch glider next to the hottie): Tomatoes.
I love tomatoes. Some call it an obsession – that’s no exaggeration. Friends who have known me since childhood have remarked on my enthusiasm for a good, firm, juicy, ripe tomato. Just thinking about a good tomato makes me want to run downstairs and make a tomato sandwich (white or light wheat bread, lightly toasted; mayonnaise on both slices of bread – be generous. Thick slices of a Summer, vine-ripened, warm from the sun tomato (preferably Heirloom, in an ideal sandwich), maybe a sprinkle of salt , not too much, and perhaps a leaf or two of fresh basil…oh, maaaaan. ).
I will cut a ripe tomato in half and eat it like an apple, juice running down my wrist and chin.
I will eat a meal consisting of nothing but tomatoes.
There is no other flavor, taste, smell that defines Summer (except for the smell of coconut on sun-warmed skin, but I already covered the whole less-clothing thing) for me. How do I determine a ripe tomato? I do not squeeze, I inhale. If it doesn’t smell like a tomato, I do not buy it. I will spend a lot of money on a good tomato. It’s worth it.
My two favorite things to eat in the summer, bar none, are a caprese salad and a tomato-feta-basil salad I make and eat several times a week. It’s not fancy, not complicated, and a lot of you probably already make this or something similar at home:
slice/quarter or dice several tomatoes. Cherry or Roma will work, but I prefer whole large tomatoes, heirloom, beefsteak, whatever. Place in a bowl.
Crumble feta (if using a block, at least half) into the same bowl.
tear (or chop, I prefer tearing by hand – I love the smell) several basil leaves, toss into the same bowl.
Drizzle Italian (your choice of brand, make, price point) dressing over the whole shebang and toss.
Let stand for at least an hour, but this is better the next day. Have on hand lots of crusty French bread to sop up the juice of the salad, it’s that good.
Whatever you like about Summer, enjoy the warmth, the smells, the tastes. It won’t be so hot for long. In mid-January, you’ll be wishing for some hot sticky nights, and I’ll say, I told you so.
Damn. Now I’m hungry and turned on. I think I might have a tomato or two downstairs…